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Nevada is funding startups for water innovation

Before someone gets snarky, please be aware that Las Vegas is a world leader in recycling and reusing water. Rainfall is captured in flood basins, goes through water purification and wetlands, then flows back into Lake Mead to be reused. The entire system works by gravity, no pumps are needed. Vegas has also been toilet-to-tap for years. All indoor water, including toilet water, is filtered, cleaned, and reused. The image shows the wetlands, where water is further cleaned after flowing through treatment plants via the ginormous Las Vegas Wash, which is lined with rubble from torn-down casinos to prevent erosion during flash floods. It’s also a bird sanctuary. Yes, in the Las Vegas area.

However, more can always be done. Nevada is now funding water startups to come up with innovative new ways to manage and save water.

Nevada is the driest state in the U.S. It’s no surprise there’s demand for technology to help us improve how we manage our water here,” said Allen. “Our hope is that by trying to coordinate demands for innovation we’ll end up attracting a cluster of technology companies, and create an ecosystem that kind of feeds back in on itself.”

WaterStart and its four water partners developed a priority list of innovations they want to encourage. These include water conservation improvements for hotels and commercial kitchens, technologies to capture nitrates and phosphates in wastewater as a resale commodity and identifying operational efficiencies for water utilities.

Solar PV is becoming the cheapest form of electricity.

Solar PV is half the price of coal and gas in many countries. This trend will accelerate. Unsubsidized solar will become the dominant and cheapest form of power worldwide. Interestingly, solar is more expensive in dinosaur countries like ours where troglodyte administrations insist coal will stage a comeback. It won’t. Renewable energy is the future. Not only is it cleaner, it’s cheaper. This from those crazed environmental radicals at Bloomberg.

While renewable energy continues to be more expensive in countries where coal and fossil fuels remain dominant, emerging projects elsewhere have managed to produce renewable electricity at lower costs. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) notes in a year-end assessment that solar power is now around half the price of coal and gas, making it cheaper than wind energy, and ultimately the cheapest form of new electricity.

BNEF predicts that, while coal and gas costs will stay low, renewables will still do better and will be the cheapest in many countries between now and 2040. Liebrich also says these favorable developments will continue regardless of subsidies: “renewable energy will beat any other technology in most of the world without subsidies.”

Iowa wind farms to produce 95% of power for customers

MidAmerican Energy is replacing motors and blades in hundreds of wind turbines in Iowa. They say the upgraded turbines will last 20-30 years and will generate substantially more power. When the four year process is completed, their customers will get 95% of their power from wind. You read that right, 95%.

“Over the last 10 years, technology has advanced,” said Spencer Moore, vice president of MidAmerican Energy. He said the new blades are between 20 and 40 feet longer. They also have a different shape, which is designed to be more efficient by 19 to 28 percent.

Microsoft supporting wind turbine project with battery storage

Wind turbines in Ireland will store power in batteries to be released when needed. The turbines and batteries are from GE. Microsoft has agreed to buy 15 years worth of power for use by its data centers. This is a smallish project, 37 MW. Hopefully soon there will be gigawatts of such power.

In addition to producing energy, the project will produce valuable data on energy storage. Each turbine will have an integrated battery; Microsoft and GE will test how these batteries can be used to capture and store excess energy, and then provide it back to the grid as needed. This provides more predictable power to an increasingly green Irish grid, by smoothing out peaks and valleys in wind production. This will better enable intermittent clean power sources like wind energy to be added to the Irish grid. This will be the first deployment of battery integration into wind turbines to store energy in Europe.

Biomass energy is saving logging in Maine

Bangor Daily News.

Stand-alone biomass plants that create electricity from sawdust, logging and lumbering scrap, and other plant waste can have a difficult time being profitable. However, in Maine and other areas, the logging industry depends on selling their scrap to biomass plants to stay solvent themselves. So, it’s complicated. Plus, biomass plants provide a service in creating electricity from leftovers that would otherwise be burned openly or dumped in landfills.

In biomass carbon-neutral? Maybe. It depends how the trees are grown. Also, is the carbon expended by trucking the scrap to the biomass plant included in the carbon footprint?

Biomass can be used for other things besides burning to generate electricity. It can generate heat, steam, and be used in commercial products. One promising development is Combined-Heat-and-Power biomass plants onsite at a commercial facility. Robbins Lumber in Maine is upgrading their existing biomass plant to be more efficient. No additional trucking of biomass is needed. They will use the scrap they produce to generate power and heat, then sell leftover electricity into the grid.

They were selling the 90 tons of wood chips they produce a day to paper mills. However those mills are closing. Now they can use the wood chips to become more self-sustaining.

The CHP plant will generate electricity from wood waste and capture heat to use on-site, thus increasing the energy efficiency ratings. After Robbins Lumber heats their buildings, dries lumber, and provides electricity to their facilities, they will sell about 7.5 megawatts to Central Maine Power. Robbins is also looking to attract other businesses to use some of the energy the plant will produce for local use.

[Maine Sen. Angus] King is pushing efforts to help reorient the forest products industry towards new technology and uses, including wood-based bioplastics and generating electricity, heat and steam from woody debris.