Archive | Energy

Advanced Rail Energy Storage

Robot train in Nevada will generate energy like a Prius

Advanced Rail Energy Storage

An innovative system in Nevada for generating energy on demand to stabilize the grid when needed will use the railroad equivalent of pumped hydro, which uses excess renewable energy top pump water uphill into a reservoir, where it is released as needed to power turbines. Similarly, surplus power will be used to send a robot train 5.5 miles up a steep grade. When energy is needed, the trains are sent downhill, creating power via the braking system.

As surplus power from such renewable projects comes in, it will be used to push an automated shuttle train up the hill. Then when electricity is needed on the grid, the train will be sent back down the hill, generating power through its braking system as it goes.

“It’s like a Prius,” said Francesca Cava, the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based vice president of operations for ARES.

Advanced Rail Energy Storage

Posted in Energy


Cooled liquid energy storage is economically viable


Energy can be stored many ways, the most common being in batteries. Concentrated Solar Power projects store excess heat from the sun in molten salt to power turbines at night. Pumped hydro uses excess energy to pump water uphill into a holding reservoir to be released when needed to turn the turbines. Using cheap power to cool liquids at night cuts costs for air conditioning during the day.

Ice Energy and CALMAC are leaders in cooled energy storage. Both have been profitable for years. CALMAC helps big buildings cut peak electricity costs while Ice Energy works with utilities and it paid by them for storing energy and turning off A/C compressors and using the stored cooling instead.These systems are designed for large buildings and can be retrofitted into existing systems.

Margins are good for the two dominant providers of cooled liquid storage, which uses low-priced nighttime electricity to freeze or cool a liquid and then utilizes the chilled liquid to help offset electric air conditioning loads when power prices peak during the day.

“We are generally earning margins in the 25% to 30% range and that is unusual in the storage industry,” said Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins. “For most of the companies, especially in the lithium ion space, the cost is not competitive yet and they have to price their product at no margin.”


Ice Energy

Posted in Energy

Hywind Scotland

World’s largest floating windfarm gets ok in Scotland

Hywind Scotland

Hywind Scotland will begin building what will become the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm. The initial pilot project will consist of five turbines generating 30 MW, capable of powering nearly 20,000 homes.The wind farm will be 12 miles offshore, presumably far enough out that NIMBYs with delicate sensibilities will not be able to complain about it.

Floating turbines can be sited in deeper water, further offshore, where fixed turbines can not be. Thus, once the technology becomes mature and tested, floating offshore wind turbines can be installed around the planet and will be cost-competitive with carbon-based electricity

The development, known as Hywind Scotland, differs from conventional offshore windfarms by using turbines attached to the seabed by a three-point mooring spread and anchoring system. The turbines are interconnected by cables, one of which exports electricity from the pilot farm to the shore at Peterhead.

Research from the Carbon Trust has suggest that floating wind concepts could potentially reduce generating costs for offshore developments.

Last month the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) released a report indicating that floating offshore wind could be a credible, cost-effective form of low-carbon energy for the UK by the mid-2020’s.

Posted in Energy, Wind turbines

Crescent Dunes CSP plant, Tonopah

Tonopah NV solar plant generates power at night

Crescent Dunes CSP plant, Tonopah

The Crescent Dunes Concentrated Solar Power plant 200 miles northwest of Las Vegas in Tonopah is now coming online. Unlike photovoltaic, CSP solar plants can store energy and thus generate power at night. 10,347 tracking mirrors, each about the size of a billboard, reflect the sun’s heat to the Crescent Dunes central tower to heat molten salt which powers turbines. The molten salt can also be stored and used to power the turbines for ten hours at full load at night. Thus, so long as the sun has shone that day in the Nevada desert, which it usually has, Crescent Dunes can produce electricity at night.

The Tonopah plant is next-gen CSP. Dry cooling technology minimizes water use, since the water is in a closed system, converted to steam then back to water over and over. Other CSP plants can store power, however none can do it as for as long as Crescent Dunes. This could be a game changer.

The facility still isn’t fully operational, but Painter said it is now in the final stages of startup. By early next year, he expects it to be delivering full power to NV Energy, which has agreed to buy the plant’s entire load at 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour — roughly twice the cost of power from a natural-gas fueled plant — for 25 years.

“We’re stepping through territory that’s never been stepped through,” Painter said. “We’re just being very cautious of how we bring it online.”

Solar Reserve, based in Santa Monica, explains how their molten salt system works.

Molten salt is circulated through highly specialized piping in the receiver (heat exchanger) during the day, and held in storage tanks at night – requiring no fossil fuels.

The tanks store the salt at atmospheric pressure.

Use of molten salt for both heat transfer and thermal energy storage minimizes number of storage tanks and salt volumes needed.

Molten salt is stored at 1050F until electricity is needed – day or night, whether or not the sun is shining.

As electricity is needed, molten salt is dispatched from the hot tank through a heat exchanger to create super-heated steam which then powers a conventional steam turbine.

The molten salt never needs replacing or topping up for the entire 30+ year life of the plant.

Heat loss is only 1F per day.

The salt, an environmentally friendly mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate, is able to be utilized as high grade fertilizer when the plant is eventually decommissioned.


Posted in Energy, Solar power

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Renewable crude oil from algae

Manta Biofuel LLC just got $150,000 in seed money to develop a next-gen autonomous, algae harvester that will produce cost-competitive oil as well as clean up algae-invested waters. It’s a double win. I really hope this scales commercially because it’s a great idea. Pond scum can be your friend.

From their website:

Growing algae is relatively simple. As long as there are enough nutrients and sunlight, algae will grow rapidly. Since our technology allows us to harvest any algae, we can utilize the native colonies and natural blooms.

Our portable, floating harvesters rely on solar power, autonomously navigate through the waters and collect algae, utilizing our novel technology.

The collected algal biomass is converted to crude oil by being subjected to high temperature and pressure, in a process called hydrothermal liquefaction.

The oil produced is largely equivalent to petroleum and can be used as a drop in replacement at the refinery level. The fuels produced from this product are renewable and carbon neutral.

Posted in Energy

Nokero solar light

Nokero solar light, great for camping, hiking more

Nokero solar light

The Nokero solar light charges during the day and provides fifteen hours of light on low and six hours on high. It comes with a stand, can be clipped on a backpack or inside a tent, and also be used as a handheld flashlight. The top swivels. Expose the solar panels during the day to charge it. Turn at night to use the light. The Nokero solar light is highly useful for backpacking. Most importantly, it can be used in areas with unstable or no electricity. Hang it outside during the day. Use it at night. Pricing is quite reasonable; $17.99 for one, $59.99 for eight, $249.99 for sixty.

Nokeros is based in Colorado. Their name means “No kerosene”

The Nokero N233 is perfect for camping, backpacking, emergency lighting, and other off-grid lighting. It is bright enough for reading, working or lighting up a tent and runs up to 15 hours after just a day’s charge. It is designed and tested here in our home state of Colorado and will withstand years of daily use in the world’s harshest conditions.

Posted in Energy

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All hail recycling, it will save the planet. Well, maybe not

Recycling is not a panacea, even as it makes one feel virtuous. However, the benefits are not nearly what most think they are. Some high quality trash like certain cardboard, paper, plastics, and aluminum cans are worth recycling. Everything else, not so much. Recycling is expensive. The falling price of oil (what plastics are derived from) is cutting demand for recyclables even more.

If all those bottles, cans, and plastics are washed before going in the recycle bin, then carbon benefits may be illusory. With lowered demand, a lot of trash, recycled or not, ends up in landfills outside of big cities where they aren’t running out of space and welcome the business.

Recycling doesn’t really work in small towns in rural areas. Parowan UT, population 3,000, made a concerted effort to implement recycling. The problem was, the recyclables had to be trucked long distances to recycling plants and it was simply too expensive.

Here’s some perspective: To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach. If you sit in business- or first-class, where each passenger takes up more space, it could be more like 100,000.

New York and other cities instruct people to rinse the bottles before putting them in the recycling bin, but the E.P.A.’s life-cycle calculation doesn’t take that water into account. That single omission can make a big difference, according to Chris Goodall, the author of “How to Live a Low-Carbon Life.” Mr. Goodall calculates that if you wash plastic in water that was heated by coal-derived electricity, then the net effect of your recycling could be more carbon in the atmosphere.

“It makes sense to recycle commercial cardboard and some paper, as well as selected metals and plastics,” he says. “But other materials rarely make sense, including food waste and other compostables. The zero-waste goal makes no sense at all — it’s very expensive with almost no real environmental benefits.

Posted in Energy


U.S. creeps towards offshore wind, could start soaring


The United States still has no offshore wind, mostly due to pointlessly complicated permitting regulations coupled with NIMBYs who think renewable energy is just a wonderful idea so long as they don’t have to look at it. However, the very first U.S. offshore wind, the Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island, is finally being built. Output will be a wee little 30 MW, enough for about 30,000 homes. By the end of this decade there might be 3.3 GW of offshore wind operational, says the government. That would be a huge improvement, even as some of the largest coal and natural gas plants produce that much power on their own. However, big potential is certainly there, especially off New Jersey and North Carolina.

According to the report [PDF], as of June 20, 2015, there were 21 US offshore wind projects in the project pipeline, representing 15,650 MW of offshore wind. Breaking that down, 13 projects totaling 5,939 MW have achieved site control or a more advanced phase of development, and approximately 3,305 MW are aiming for commercial operation by 2020.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has issued 5,768 MW of offshore wind leases, with a total value of $14.5 million, as well as identifying wind energy areas in New Jersey and North Carolina totaling nearly 9,000 MW of additional potential capacity that has yet to be auctioned.

The UK has by far the most offshore wind of any nation, especially in Scotland. The West Coast waters get too deep too fast for turbines to be practical. The  East Coast, with its shallow waters, is ideal for offshore turbines. Let’s hope it happens.

Posted in Energy, Wind turbines


Hydroponic farm 100 feet under London in old bomb shelter


“The market for this is huge” says a London chef about Growing Underground, which now has a commercial subterranean hydroponic farm in London. Thus, fresh vegetables and greens get to restaurants in four hours. They specialize mostly in high end produce and greens for salads. Crowdfunding is supplying the money and they have a new campaign on Crowdcube, which ends in three days, and have raised £154,530 of their goal of £200,000, offering a 10% return.

From farm to fork in under four hours.

Our hydroponics system uses 70% less water than traditional open-field farming, and because all the nutrients are kept within the closed-loop system we run no risk of contributing to agricultural run-off. Food miles account for a huge amount of wasted energy in the industry. That’s why our produce will travel no further than the M25. Our leaves can be in your kitchen within 4 hours of being picked and packed. Initially we will be providing wholesale and local restaurants, and eventually the retail market. We are working towards carbon neutral certification.

Posted in Energy

Salt buildings in desert

Using desalination to create desert cities from salt


This is thinking way outside the box. Use solar-powered desalination to create fresh water to grow crops in deserts and use the leftover salt mixed with epoxy to create buildings. Thus, no brine is pumped back into the ocean and food could be produced in deserts. I’m sure the technical challenges here are daunting and I really hope this happens.

Geboers aims to create a closed-loop system that would produce zero waste. Unlike traditional desalination technology, where concentrated brine is often pumped back into the sea in concentrations that are unhealthy to marine ecosystems, the extracted salt could be reused as a sustainable building material. Because it has great compressive strength, but not so much tension, it would be most ideally used in domes and arches, which are common in vernacular desert architecture.

Salt, of course, does not react well when exposed to moisture, so Geboers seals the starchy salt bricks with an epoxy. Since this is a plastic-based material, the architect is currently researching bio-based plastics as a more ecological alternative. Water distilled as a byproduct of the solar desalination process would then be used to grow food in greenhouses – similar to the Sahara Forest Project that is successfully cultivating crops in Qatar.

Building With Seawater

Sahara Forest Project

Posted in Energy


Morris Consulting


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