News and Events by CCRES July 06, 2012

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources

News and Events July 06, 2012

Energy Department Announces $102 Million for Small Business Research

The Energy Department announced on June 27 that it will award new funding to 104 small businesses nationwide. The grants, totaling more than $102 million, will support businesses in 26 states, helping companies to develop promising technologies with a strong potential for commercialization and job creation.
Funded through the Energy Department’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, the selections are for Phase II work. In Phase II, companies will build on the conceptual work undertaken in Phase I and pursue the next steps in bringing the technologies to market. The Phase II awards are up to $1 million for work over two years. The awards support developing technologies in areas ranging from large wind turbine towers to more energy-efficient data centers. For example, the Xunlight 26 Solar company of Toledo, Ohio, will work on transparent, flexible cadmium telluride modules for photovoltaics. See the DOE press release, the list of awards, and the SBIR and STTR website.

Energy Department Awards $14 Million for Energy Efficiency in 22 States

The Energy Department announced on June 27 that its State Energy Program has awarded $14 million to state-led energy efficiency projects in 22 states. The funds will allow the government agencies to conduct energy efficiency upgrades to public facilities and develop local policies and programs to help reduce energy waste and save taxpayer money. These investments are part of the Energy Department’s strategy to create jobs, boost domestic manufacturing in energy-saving technologies, and help Americans save money.
The state-led projects will conduct whole-building energy efficiency upgrades across hundreds of public buildings, saving millions of dollars for state and local governments and creating new local jobs for energy auditors, architects, engineers and construction workers. The states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The projects fall under two broad categories, including advancing energy efficiency in public buildings and deploying fee-based self-funded public facilities energy retrofit programs. In addtion, two states will be taking energy efficiency policy action to encourage cost-effective energy efficiency investments and establish or increase statewide energy savings goals by 2015. See the DOE press release and the complete list of projectsPDF.

Obama Administration Announces Investments in Biofuels

Photo of a series of buildings.

The Energy Department is boosting support for biofuels. This type of pilot biorefinery makes cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs.
Credit: POET
The Energy Department, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Navy on July 2 announced $30 million in federal funding to match private investments in commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels. Drop-in biofuels are fuels that can serve as direct replacements or supplements to existing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels, without any changes to existing fuel distribution networks or engines—and have the potential to significantly reduce U.S. reliance on oil imports. DOE is also offering a total of $32 million in new investments for earlier-stage research that will continue to drive technological breakthroughs and additional cost reductions in the industry.
In his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future released in March 2011, President Obama set a goal of reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025, increasing energy efficiency, and speeding development of biofuels and other alternatives. As part of that effort, the blueprint directed the DOE, the Navy, and the USDA to collaborate to support commercialization of drop-in biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel, which lead to the current Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). This FOA has a two-phased approach, with government and industry sharing in the cost. In Phase 1, applicants will submit a design package and comprehensive business plan for a commercial-scale biorefinery, identify and secure project sites, and take additional required steps spelled out in the announcement. Awardees selected to continue into Phase 2 will submit additional information for the construction or retrofit of a biorefinery. Applications are due by August 13, 2012. See the funding opportunity announcement, and the Blueprint for a Secure Energy FuturePDF.
In addition, DOE offered new investments in earlier-stage biofuels research that complement the commercial-scale efforts announced by the Navy and USDA. These early-stage, pre-commercial investments are the latest steps in the Obama Administration’s efforts to advance biofuels technologies to continue to lower costs, improve performance, and identify new effective, non-food feedstocks and processing technologies.
The funding announced by DOE includes $20 million to support innovative pilot-scale and demonstration-scale biorefineries that could produce renewable biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and shipboard diesel using a variety of non-food biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials, and algae. These projects may support new plant construction, retrofits on existing U.S. biorefineries, or operations at plants ready to begin production at the pilot- or pre-commercial scale. This investment will also help federal and local governments, private developers, and industry collect accurate data on the cost of producing fuels made from biomass and waste feedstocks. See the full funding solicitation. Applications are due August 13, 2012.
Also, DOE announced $12 million to support up to eight projects focused on researching ways to develop biobased transportation fuels and products using synthetic biological processing. Synthetic biological processing offers an innovative technique to enable efficient, cost-saving conversion of non-food biomass to biofuels. These projects will develop novel biological systems that can enhance the breakdown of raw biomass feedstocks and assist in converting feedstocks into transportation fuels.
The projects—which will be led by small businesses, universities, national laboratories, and industry—will seek to overcome technical and scientific barriers to cost-competitive advanced biofuels and bioproducts. Applications are due July 10, 2012. See the full funding opportunity announcement, and the DOE press release.

Administration Makes Major Advances in Energy Efficiency Access

The Obama Administration announced on June 26 that 36 new members have joined the Better Buildings Challenge. These new commitments, from four states—Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, and North Carolina—local governments, and school districts, total nearly 300 million square feet in job-creating building energy upgrades, which is equivalent to more than 130 Empire State Buildings. In addition, new public tax guidance issued at the same time by the U.S. Department of the Treasury will make it easier for state and local governments to access more than $2 billion in existing low-cost financing to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through qualified energy conservation bonds. These bonds (QECBs) provide state and local governments with access to low-cost financing to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
The challenge is part of the Better Buildings Initiative launched in February 2011 to support job creation by catalyzing private sector investment in commercial and industrial building energy upgrades. The initiative is spearheaded by former President Clinton and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness with the goal of making U.S. buildings 20% more efficient over the next decade, which will help reduce U.S. energy costs by nearly $40 billion. Last year, commercial buildings consumed roughly 20% of all the energy used by the U.S. economy. See the Energy Department press release and the Better Buildings Challenge website.

Interior Reports Two Major Wind Energy Initiatives Finish Review

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced on July 2 that two major wind energy initiatives have completed important environmental reviews in three states—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Wyoming—clearing the way for public comment and final review.
DOI announced the release of final environmental impact statements for a proposed wind power complex in Wyoming that would generate up to 3,000 megawatts of power, making it the largest wind farm facility in the United States and one of the largest in the world. The proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Farm would include up to 1,000 turbines and generate enough power for as many as 1 million homes. The project would be built on public, private, and state land in Carbon County, Wyoming. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is reviewing the proposed wind project, as well as a proposed amendment to the Rawlins Resource Management Plan to accommodate the facility.
Also, DOI announced the publication of an environmental assessment for commercial wind leases and site assessment activities on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. This step positions DOI to offer the area as one of the nation’s first offshore competitive lease sales before the end of the year. The environmental assessment for the Rhode Island/Massachusetts Wind Energy Area will be used by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to inform future leasing decisions as part of the Obama Administration’s “Smart from the Start” offshore wind energy initiative. The Wind Energy Area comprises approximately 164,750 acres within the area of mutual interest identified by the two states. BOEM leadership will host public information sessions on July 16 and 17 to further engage stakeholders and consider public comments on the environmental assessment. See the DOI press release.

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov

A Material Change: Bringing Lithium Production Back to America

Between 1980 and 2009, the global demand for lithium has tripled. This metal is a key material in a number of growing industries, including advanced vehicle batteries and consumer electronics. But more specifically, lithium-ion batteries are a vital component in electric vehicles and other rechargeable batteries for consumer electronics and are used to produce the plug-in electric vehicles on the market today. These batteries also have a major impact on energy storage infrastructure and are helping integrate renewable energy sources into the electricity grid.
After leading the world in lithium production in the early 1990s, America now imports the majority of its lithium materials and compounds from South America.
The Energy Department is hoping to bring lithium production leadership back to the United States with a $28.4 million federal investment in the communities of Silver Peak, Nevada, and Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Read the complete story in the Energy Blog.

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

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U.S. Support for the Sustainable Energy for All Global Action Agenda

U.S. Support for the Sustainable Energy for All Global Action Agenda

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov


The UN Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative represents an important opportunity for the international community to address issues critical to the future of sustainable development, energy access, and economic growth. Expanding the use of efficient and clean energy technologies is a priority of the Obama Administration, domestically and internationally, and increasing energy access is a central challenge facing the world.
The United States supports the principles of the Global Action Agenda developed by the SE4ALL High Level Group through existing and planned activities across a broad range of U.S. Government agencies. As reported elsewhere in official documents, the U.S. is providing substantial grant, loan and loan guarantee resources, from both Congressionally-appropriated funds and under loan and loan guarantee authorities, of about $2 billion in FY11 for clean energy. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress on activities in FY12 that will build on and sustain this USG priority. These funds are helping to create a sound policy, regulatory and institutional framework for project investment and financing from private and international sources as well as directly leveraging investment. Support for innovation and energy technology partnerships is also an important focus. In building viable and sustainable energy markets, U.S. support helps create opportunities for American exports in renewable energy, power generation and energy efficiency technologies.
Below are specific examples of on-going and planned U.S. Government support for the SE4All Global Action Agenda:

1. Technical Assistance for Improving the Enabling Environment

Sustainable Clean Energy Development: Within this overall U.S. effort, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department are promoting sustainable, low emissions development through a range of clean energy activities that have national, regional, and global components. One major activity involves cooperation with up to 20 countries in developing and implementing low emissions development strategies (LEDS) that emphasize energy efficiency and renewable energy. Other activities include supporting regional energy efficiency and power grid interconnection and market development efforts; promoting regulatory and business policies that create conditions for renewable and clean energy investment; and promoting global efforts to advance new, efficient energy technologies.

2. Participation in Clean Energy Technology Partnerships

Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM): The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), supported by funding from the Department of State, serves as the Secretariat for the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), a high-level global forum to promote policies and programs that advance clean energy technology, to share lessons learned and best practices, and to encourage the transition to a global clean energy economy. Participating governments account for 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 90 percent of global clean energy investment. The CEM’s 12 initiatives build on Technology Action Plans that were released by the Major Economies Forum Global Partnership in December 2009, which laid out best practice blueprints for action in key technology areas. Three of these initiatives are components of the SE4ALL Action Agenda. The Super-efficient Appliance and Equipment Deployment (SEAD) initiative creates a common technical foundation to allow governments to more easily adopt cost-effective appliance efficiency policies and programs. The Clean Energy Solutions Center serves as a first-stop clearinghouse of online clean energy resources, including policy best practices, data, and analysis tools, and shares these resources with a global forum of energy experts, policy makers, and other stakeholders. The Solutions Center offers online training, “live” ask-an-expert assistance to help countries tailor solutions to their needs and foster international collaboration on policy innovations. Global LEAP is a voluntary forum that brings together donor governments and development partners to share knowledge and best practices under a set of commonly held principles that encourage self-sustaining commercial markets for energy access solutions, with a particular focus on energy-efficient off-grid lighting. Funding commitments for these three initiatives in FY 10 and 11 total over $16 million.
Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Duke Energy, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has launched a new program to develop and scale appropriate, clean energy solutions for farmers and agri-businesses in the developing world. The program will focus on technology and business model innovation and commercialization of solutions.
Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves: The United States is a founding member of this Alliance, an innovative initiative led by the United Nations Foundation and with over 400 public and private partners, including 34 countries, to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. Roughly half of the U.S. contribution supports applied research on topics such as health benefits, technology development, stove testing, and adoption. The other half targets debt financing or insurance to support the manufacture, sale, and purchase of cookstoves. The Alliance’s ‘100 by 20’ goal calls for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.

3. Financing and Mobilization of Private Capital

OPIC: The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation offers a number of products to help investors finance projects in the developing world, including debt financing, risk insurance, and new coverage for power purchase agreements. OPIC lending for renewable energy reached $1.1 billion in FY11. The OPIC commitments normally leverage at least twice as much in private investments.
MCC: The Millennium Challenge Corporation enters into Compacts with a limited number of countries that provide grant assistance to support their reform efforts in key sectors. Electrification and clean energy is a focus in several of the current and planned Compacts.
TDA: The U.S. Trade and Development Agency supports project feasibility and related technical assessment work that support exports by U.S. companies. TDA helps to ensure project soundness and often addresses key regulatory constraints developing a project financing package.
USAID/DCA: USAID has a unique loan guarantee program called the Development Credit Authority that provides partial credit guarantees on a project or portfolio basis with local banks, municipal authorities, or private companies. DCA guarantees support USAID’s development priorities across all sectors including energy, and some specific mechanisms/windows for clean energy have been established. In 2011, DCA completed 37 transactions in 21 countries, which will result in $197 million in private capital for local loans. The leveraging impact of these guarantees on local lending was 16 to 1 in FY11.
Treasury: The U.S. Department of Treasury is the lead USG agency in the provision of clean energy finance to multilateral climate and clean energy funds including the Clean Technology Fund and the Program for Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries. The U.S. contribution to these funds in FY11 was approximately $195 million for clean energy activities. In addition, approximately $23.4 million of the Treasury FY2011 GEF contribution went toward clean energy activities.

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

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Renewable Energy Croatia 2012

 

 
 
 
Renewable energy resources, like wind and solar, are abundant, homegrown, and emissions-free and have the potential to help lead the nation toward energy independence.
Unfortunately, today’s infrastructure is unable to maximize the benefits of significantly more renewable resources. Wind and solar resources are connected to the grid as “one-off” solutions that are generally not integrated with other generation nor optimized as a reliable first-tier energy source.

Additionally, when renewable resources are producing electricity, the possibility of congestion on transmission lines can create a barrier to their full utilization. The variability of renewable sources can also cause challenges. And when renewables are offline—when the wind doesn’t blow or it’s a cloudy day— other power generation will be needed to fill in the gaps.

Without infrastructure expansion and changes to the way the power system is operated, it will be difficult for the Croatia to produce more than 20% of its electricity (the target percentage for many EU states) from variable renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar.

The Variability of Renewable Power

Wind and solar power are inherently variable, meaning sometimes the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. Then what? Fortunately, smart grid technologies can help manage the unpredictability of wind and solar to help alleviate reliability and stability issues caused by power fluctuations. This will become increasingly important as more wind and solar power is connected to the grid.

Automated demand response technologies will act as a lever that utilities can pull to help lower demand in the event there is a gap in renewable power generation—for instance, if the wind stops blowing. To address such contingencies, a utility may incent consumers to opt into programs that allow certain devices (i.e., water heaters) to be temporarily switched off during peak times.
In the future, storage technologies could also help utilities manage the short-term imbalances in the supply and demand of energy, sometimes caused by the fluctuations of a lot of renewable energy. Batteries will store energy during times of excess wind energy production and discharge that energy via smart grid automation technologies when energy demand exceeds supply.

Grid Congestion
In some parts of the country, overburdened power lines make it difficult to move electricity from wind farms into the grid for consumption. There have been cases when wind farms are forced to shut down—even when the wind is blowing—because there is no capacity available in the lines for the electricity they create.

Without adequate transmission to transport power from “renewable” rich areas (like Dalmacija region) to densely populated areas, it is only cost effective to use renewable sources in certain areas of the country—at least for now.

While building new infrastructure would certainly help, smart grid technologies can also help utilities alleviate grid congestion and maximize the potential of our current infrastructure. Smart grid technologies can help provide real-time readings of the power line, enabling utilities to maximize flow through those lines and help alleviate congestion.

As smart grid technologies become more widespread, the electrical grid will be made more efficient, helping reduce issues of congestion. Sensors and controls will help intelligently reroute power to other lines when necessary, accommodating energy from renewable sources, so that power can be transported greater distances, exactly where it’s needed.
   
    

Distributed Generation
Traditionally, electricity has flowed one way, from a power station to a customer. However, as more energy is generated by alternative sources, power will be entering the network from multiple locations, including the distribution network (i.e., distributed generation). These sources are often cleaner or more efficient; for example, combined heat and power plants (CHP) are more than 75% efficient, compared to traditional generation, which is only 49% efficient on average.1

Unfortunately, the current grid was not designed with multi-directional power flow in mind. Two-way power flow, sophisticated controls, and grid automation technologies can help bring wind, solar and other alternative energy solutions safely into the distribution grid and move it where it’s needed, when it’s needed.

In some regions, individuals can contribute to energy production on the distribution grid by generating electricity at their home—for example, solar on rooftops. Where available, enhanced net-metering incents consumers to sell power back to the grid during peak pricing hours—so, consumers make money, and utilities are able to better manage peak demand. Whole neighborhoods could become solar or wind generation plants, introducing excess power back into the grid to meet demand.

 

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

Posted in ALTERNATIVE, ALTERNATIVE ENERGY, CCRES, CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES, GREEN ENERGY, HCOIE, HRVATSKI CENTAR OBNOVLJIVIH IZVORA ENERGIJE, PASSIVE ENERGY, RENEWABLE ENERGY, RENEWABLE ENERGY CENTER SOLAR SERDAR, RENEWABLES JAPAN STATUS REPORT, SOLAR SERDAR | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

News and Events by CCRES June 28, 2012

 

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources

News and Events June 28, 2012

Efficiency, Renewable Energy Projects Win 12 R&D 100 Awards

Photo of two men testing equipment in a laboratory.

NREL engineers Jason Woods, left, and Eric Kozubal conduct research on a prototype of DEVAP, which earned an R&D100 award.
Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL
Energy efficiency and renewable energy projects from DOE national laboratories have won 12 of the 100 awards given out this year by R&D Magazine. The awards are presented annually to recognize exceptional new products, processes, materials, and software developed throughout the world and introduced into the market the previous year. Overall, DOE won 36 awards, including those funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Scientists and engineers from DOE’s national laboratories and facilities received the honors from an independent panel of judges.
There were eight DOE winners for energy efficiency. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was cited for four projects: NanoSHIELD, a protective coating that can extend the life of costly cutting and boring tools by more than 20%; the robotic hand, which costs approximately 10 times less than similar devices while commanding 10 times more power than other electric systems; the asymmetric rolling mill, which provides a way to efficiently process sheet and plate materials, accelerating the production and availability of low-cost magnesium; and the low-frequency RF plasma source, a low-cost plasma generator for research, development, and production of nanometer scale materials at lower temperatures, faster rates, and with enhanced properties. In addition, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) earned honors for its ultra-fast, large-scale efficient boriding—a thermo-chemical surface hardening process in which boron atoms are diffused into a surface—that can drastically reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve the performance and reliability of machine components. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) won for its desiccant-enhanced evaporative air-conditioning (DEVAP) systems, which cool commercial buildings using a small fraction of the energy used by traditional coolers. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) won for co-developing graphene nanostructures for lithium batteries, in which small quantities of graphene can dramatically improve the performance and power of lithium-ion batteries so batteries last longer and recharge quickly. And, Sandia National Laboratories was honored for the Sandia cooler, technology that significantly reduces the energy needed to cool the processor chips in data centers and large-scale computing environments. See the press releases from ORNL, ANL, NREL, PNNL, and Sandia.
In renewable energy categories, there were four R&D 100 award picks. ANL and several partners developed a novel high-energy and high-power cathode material that is especially suited for use in lithium-ion batteries used in plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) was recognized for its platinum monolayer electrocatalysts for fuel cell cathodes, which have high activity, stability, and durability, while containing only about one-tenth the platinum of conventional catalysts used in fuel cells, significantly reducing overall costs. NREL was tapped for its SJ3 solar cell, which achieves a world-record conversion efficiency of 43.5% with the potential to reach 50% by using a three-layered SJ3 cell to capture different light frequencies, ensuring the best conversion of the energy from photons to electrons. And, Sandia’s microsystems enabled photovoltaics were recognized because the glitter-sized PV cells created using microdesign and microfabrication techniques can be released into a solution and “printed” onto a low-cost substrate. See the press releases from ANL, BNL, NREL, and Sandia.
Since 1963, when R&D Magazine’s annual competition began, DOE has received more than 800 R&D 100 awards in areas such as energy and basic scientific applications. See the DOE Progress Alert, the DOE press release and the complete list of R&D 100 winners.

U.S. and Canada Set Next Phase of Clean Energy Dialogue

The Energy Department and Environment Canada released on June 21 the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue Action Plan II, outlining the next phase of activities the two countries will undertake to jointly advance clean energy technologies. The new action plan renews U.S. and Canadian commitment to work together to build smart electrical grids, and advance clean energy research and development. Action Plan II places a greater emphasis on energy efficiency to take advantage of the approaches and tools in each country to help facilitate the uptake of energy efficient technologies and practices.
Among the initiatives under Action Plan II will be an initiative to clarify U.S. and Canadian regulatory authorities for deployment of offshore renewable energy and technologies. The plan also calls for new investigations of the potential of power storage technologies. Also, the plan calls for discussions among key Canadian federal departments and provincial governments, the Energy Department, and U.S. national labs regarding options to harmonize data gathering related to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for North America.
President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper established the Clean Energy Dialogue in 2009 to encourage the development of clean energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change in both countries. See the DOE press release and the complete planPDF.

Energy Department, Park Service Announce Clean Cities Partnership

Photo of three park vehicles with signage.

New alternative fuel vehicles at Mammoth Cave National Park display decals acknowledging the Department of Energy-Clean Cities/National Park Service Initiative that provided the vehicles to the park.
Credit: Victor Peek Photography
The Energy Department and the National Park Service announced on June 19 that five national parks around the country will deploy fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles as part of an expanded partnership, helping to protect some of the nation’s most prized natural environments. The Energy Department is providing $1.1 million for the park projects. Each of these national parks is collaborating with at least one of the Energy Department’s Clean Cities coalitions to choose the best clean energy options for its fleet. The parks include Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California; Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado; San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Texas; and Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.
Some of the alternative fuel vehicles are multi-passenger rides devoted to park visitors, and that means even greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The new projects build upon the success of the program launched last year at Grand Teton, Wyoming; Mammoth Cave, Kentucky; and Yellowstone, Wyoming. The parks predict their combined projects will save more than 13,000 equivalent gallons of gasoline, avoid the emission of about 100 tons of greenhouse gases annually, and reach 6.5 million visitors each year. The Energy Department has been working with the National Park Service since 1999 to support the use of clean, renewable and alternative fuels, electric vehicles, and other energy-saving practices to help preserve air quality and promote the use of domestic energy resources in the parks. See the Energy Department press release, the Clean Cities website, and the National Park Service’s Green Parks Plan website.

DOI OKs First Commercial Solar Project on Indian Trust Lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) approved on June 21 a 350-megawatt (MW) solar energy project on tribal trust lands of the Moapa Band (Tribe) of Paiute Indians in Clark County, Nevada. The project marks a milestone as the first utility-scale solar project approved for development on tribal lands. The record of decision approves the construction, operation, and maintenance of a low-impact photovoltaic (PV) facility and associated infrastructure on about 2,000 acres of the Tribe’s reservation, located 30 miles north of Las Vegas. The project is expected to generate about 400 jobs at peak construction and 15-20 permanent jobs.
Proposed by K Road Moapa Solar LLC, the project would be built in three phases of 100-150 megawatts each. In addition to PV panel arrays, major project components include a 500-kilovolt (kV) transmission line to deliver power to the grid and a 12-kV transmission line to the existing Moapa Travel Plaza after Phase 1 is complete. About 12 acres of U.S. public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management would be required for the 500-kV transmission line. The project will generate lease income for the tribe, create new jobs and employment opportunities for tribal members, and connect the existing tribally owned travel plaza to the electrical grid, decreasing its dependence on a diesel-powered generator. To minimize and mitigate potential environmental impacts, a Desert Tortoise translocation plan, a bird and bat Conservation strategy, and a weed management plan will be implemented, and biologists will conduct natural resources monitoring during all surface disturbing activities. See the Interior Department press release.

FERC Approves Final Rule to Integrate Variable Energy Resources

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued on June 21 a final rule that requires transmission providers to offer customers the option of scheduling transmission service at 15-minute intervals instead of one-hour intervals. The rule also requires generators using variable energy resources, such as wind and solar, to provide transmission owners with certain data to support power production forecasting. According to FERC, the ruling will promote more efficient operation of the transmission system amid increasing integration of variable renewable energy resources on the grid. The ruling also benefits electric consumers by ensuring that services are provided at reasonable rates.
The final rule finds that while power production forecasts help transmission providers manage reserves more efficiently, forecasts are only as good as the data on which they rely. By requiring new interconnection customers whose variable energy resources to provide meteorological and operational data to transmission providers forecasting power production, FERC finds that transmission providers will better be able to manage resource variability. The final rule takes effect 12 months after publication in the Federal Register. See the FERC press release.

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov

Making the Impossible Possible: From Kennedy’s Moonshot to Solar’s SunShot

By Ramamoorthy Ramesh, Director, SunShot Initiative & Solar Energy Technologies Program
In my two years as the director of the Energy Department’s Solar Energy Technologies Program, I have often been accused of being an eternal optimist. I see our nation’s energy challenges as an incredible opportunity—one that has the potential to revolutionize our economy, environment, and national security.
That’s why, back in 2010, we established the SunShot Initiative to decrease the total installed price of solar energy by 75% by 2020. We took our inspiration from President Kennedy’s 1962 “moon shot” speech that set the country on a path to regain the lead in the space race and land a man on the moon. Many thought a manned lunar mission was beyond NASA’s capabilities, but this bold move ultimately united the country when it proved successful.
There were plenty of naysayers when we launched the SunShot Initiative—even within the industry—who said that subsidy-free, cost-competitive solar couldn’t happen in this decade. But we didn’t listen to them. And now—as the price of solar panels decreases and America’s solar energy industry explodes—many of those same naysayers are changing their tune. See the complete post on the Energy Blog.

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

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Carbon capture and consumption

Carbon capture and consumption

Could it Eliminate the Need for Wastewater Aeration?

Algal blooms have always proved a challenge for the water industry. Yet could this organic matter,with the help of wastewater nutrients, be turned into a biofuel and help alleviate fossil fuel shortages? Tom Freyberg investigates the European funded All-Gas project.
First generation biofuels from crops never really bloomed into a fruitful harvest. Opponents criticized using up valuable land to grow crops and fuel the cars of the rich, instead of filling the stomachs of the poor. Second generation biofuels – made from biomass – have proved a lot harder to extract the required fuel and fully crack.
And then along came algae. Unlike first generation biofuels, algae can be grown using land and water not suitable for plant and food production.
Consuming solar energy and reproducing itself, algae generates a type of oil that has a similar molecular structure to petroleum products produced today. As if this wasn’t enough – algae growth also consumes carbon dioxide, a known major greenhouse gas (GHG).
As a result of the apparent benefits the race is on to commercialize second and now third generation biofuels, in the case of algae. Continents and companies are putting money where their mouths are to find out how what we thought was simply a green weed growing in the sea could be the answer to inevitable fossil fuel shortages.

 

Algal culture ponds are used to grow and harvest micro-algae using nutrients contained in wastewater

 

Earlier this year US President Barack Obama announced that the Department of Energy would make $14 million available to support research and development into biofuels from algae. The Department has suggested that up to 17% of the US’ imported oil for transportation could be replaced with biofuels derived from the substance.
Meanwhile Europe is going even further and mandating the gradual replacement of fossil fuels to biofuels. An EU Directive stipulates that by 2020 a total of 20% of energy needs should be produced by renewable fuels. A further requirement is that 10% of biofuels need to be met through transport related activities.
Even UK government backed agency the Carbon Trust has forecast that by 2030, algae-based biofuels could replace more than 70 billion litres of fossil fuels used every year around the world in road transportation and aviation.

Nutrients: burden or blessing?

So far, so good. Yet while algae derived biofuels sound like an answer to inevitable fossil fuel shortages, two challenges remain: space and nutrients. The first challenge will be addressed later but on the topic of nutrients, phosphorous and ammonia are required alongside sun light and carbon dioxide to “feed” the algae. And with up to 30% of operating costs at algae farms attributed to buying and adding in such nutrients, it’s a notable expense.
It is in response to this particular challenge where the wastewater sector could play its part, with untreated effluent being a known source of phosphorous and other nutrients. An EU funded project aims to bring together the challenge and solution and link the water and biofuel industries together.
The €12 million, five-year project is starting at water management company aqualia’s wastewater treatment plant in Chiclana, Southern Spain and is backed by the European Union as part of its FP7 program – supporting energy-related projects – with six partners.
Called All-Gas, which translates into algae in Spanish, the project will see “algal culture ponds” being used to grow micro-algae using nutrients contained in wastewater, such as phosphorous. A 10-hectare site will eventually be needed for the project. Frank Rogalla, head of R&D at aqualia, says nutrients are abundant in wastewater, so it makes sense to incorporate the two industries.
Traditionally aeration processes at wastewater treatment plants are heavy energy users, accounting for up to 30% of a facility’s operating costs. In the US, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, drinking water and wastewater systems account for between 3% and 4% of national energy consumption alone.
However, Rogalla later told Water & Wastewater International magazine (WWi) that growing algae with wastewater can eliminate the need for aeration, thus reducing energy use.
He said: “We have converted our treatment to anaeraobic pre-treatment, meaning we will generate biogas from the start instead of destroying organic matter, so no aeration will be needed. From the 0.5 kWh [kilowatt-hour] per m3 which you generally spend for aeration, that will be completely gone. We will have a net output of energy from algae conversion either to oils or to gas. So that’s why you get this positive output of 0.4 kWh per m3 of wastewater treated.”
Rogalla added: “It will not cost more than traditional wastewater treatment, which costs about 0.2 Euros per cubic metre. We think we will use the same operational costs but instead of consuming energy we will produce additional benefit, meaning we generate about 0.2 Euros per cubic metre in additional profit from the fuel. Our aim is to be cost neutral.”
So the question has to be asked of how, technically, can the proposed treatment eliminate the need for wastewater aeration? The answer, as Rogalla later tells WWi, is through the initial conversion to biogas.
Compared to nitrification and dentrification to eliminate nutrients in conventional wastewater treatment, a process Rogalla says consumes about 5 kWh/kg Nitrogen during aeration, All-Gas will use an alternative conversion. Firstly anaerobic pre-treatment will convert most organic matter into biogas (CH4 and CO2). Algae will then take up the nitrogen and phosphorous.

 

Productive: instead of using traditional nitrification and dentrification processes, organic matter will instead be converted into biogas

 

As the algae will transform most nutrients into biomass, they will also produce O2 in the process, as CO2 is taken up and oxygen released in their metabolic process. As a result, according to Rogalla, aeration is not necessary. Most organic carbon is transformed into energy (via biogas), nutrients are incorporated into algae, which produce oxygen for any polishing action necessary.

 

An overview of aqualia’s wastewater treatment plant in Chiclana, Southern Spain

 

“It only seems logical to use the wastewater nutrients to grow algae biomass; on the one hand saving the aeration energy, on the other hand the algae fertilizer and cleaning wastewater without the occurrence of useless sludge, but producing biofuels and added value instead,” Rogalla adds.

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov

  and WaterWorld, Industrial WaterWorld

Space challenges

Addressing the second challenge of space requirements to harness algae ponds, for a commercial scale operation it’s estimated that a 10 hectare site is required (roughly 10 football pitches). Yet when compared to the oil yields of other crops, algae still proves favourable.
Data from US-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) show that oil yields from soybeans work out at 400 litres/hectare/year, which compares to 6,000 for palm oil and theoretically, a potential 60,000 for microalgae. For barrels/hectare/year, the same comparison yields 2.5 for soybeans, 36 for palm oil and a minimum of 360 for microalgae.
As predictions go, the production of 60,000 litres of biofuel from only one hectare of algae is optimistic compared aqualia’s aims for the Europe project. If a target set by the EU is reached, then each hectare should produce 20,000 litres of biodiesel. This, the firm says, compares to 5000 litres of biofuel per hectare per year for biofuels such as alcohol from sugar cane or biodiesel from palm oil.
The Spanish project also hopes to use produced biogas from the anaerobic pre-treatment and raw wastewater organic matter as car fuel, with each hectare touted to treat about 400 m3 per day.
Statistics to one side, the challenge of space remains. Booming urban populations are expanding closer to rural wastewater treatment plants but at the same communities insist on an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ rule when it comes to infrastructure that treats their waste. Rogalla does not think the land issue could impede the development of algae ponds to the majority of wastewater treatment plants. “Algae ponds of course can be put on marginal lands, or even on rooftops,” he adds. “In rural areas extensive oxidation ponds for wastewater treatment are not uncommon, not to mention the often unused land areas as buffer zones around wastewater treatment plants.

 

Biogas generated from wastewater could mean the 0.5 kWh per m3 usually spent on aeration won’t be required

 

“As we do not claim that all fuel can be made from biofuel on land, but only where possible wastewater should be turned into biofuel (excluding mostly big cities), the land issue seems secondary.”

Carbon capture and consumption

One further benefit that has made algae growth attractive compared to other fuels is its consumption of Greenhouse Gases (GHG), namely CO2, in order to grow. While captured carbon consumed by algae will inevitably be released later when used as a fuel in cars, it could still be a step in the right direction in reducing the impact of a world still firmly grasping CO2 emitting fuel sources.
An article entitled Algal Biofuels: The Process from NREL in a Society for Biological Engineering journal suggests that over two billion tons of CO2 could be captured by growing algae on the space equivalent to the entire U.S. soybean crop of 63.3 million acres.
Power plants and cement kilns appear to be an ideal match for algae growth, then. Yet, in order for All-Gas to attract seven million Euros worth of funding for its project, the CO2 had to come from renewable sources. Any fossil fuel burning plants were not permitted, as Denise Green, manager of biofuels across Europe and Africa from Hart Energy Consulting tells WWi.
“This particular call was restricted to projects in which the carbon dioxide supply for the algae cultivation was provided by renewable applications, excluding carbon dioxide from fossil fuel installations,” she says.
“However I see no reason why future funding for algae projects could not be provided for research into algae as part of the solution for CO2 capture for zero emission power generation. If there are objections to using algae from fossil fuel installations for transportation fuels, there are other industries for which algae can be used where this may not be an issue.”

Project roll out and commercialisation

The project will be implemented in two stages, with a prototype facility being used to confirm the scale of the full-size plant during the first two years. Once the concept has been proven in full-scale ponds, a 10 hectare site will be developed and operated at commercial scale during the next three years.
Rogalla suggests the project could be rolled out among aqualia’s existing facilities along the Mediterranean belt, including Italy, Portugal, Egypt and even South America, all of which have “favourable conditions, meaning the climate is advantageous and the land is available”.
Clearly, the conversion of algae to fuel is possible and has been demonstrated on a laboratory scale. It could hold the potential to turn a new leaf for biofuels haunted by their unsuccessful and much criticized first generation brothers. The real interest for the water sector should be the pipe dream of the project to eliminate aeration and turn existing wastewater treatment facilities into biofuel production centres.
The pivotal outcome of the project will be cost. This was proved in the well documented closure of the US Department of Energy’s algae research programme in 1996 after nearly 20 years of work. At the time it was estimated that the $40-60/bbl cost of producing algal oil just couldn’t compete with petroleum for the foreseeable future.
However, it is the additional methane extracted from raw wastewater and algae residue that differentiates this project. It’s not just reliant upon biodiesel produced from the algae. All-Gas has the chance to spearhead Europe into proving that algae biofuel, through the help of wastewater, could eventually be more competitive on a per barrel price with traditional oil.
CCRES ALGAE PROJECT 
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News and Events by CCRES June 21, 2012

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources

News and Events June 21, 2012

 

SunShot Initiative Investments and Solar Contest Announced

Photo of two workers installing a solar panel on a rooftop.

DOE’s SunShot Initiative has a new competition and investments making it easier and less expensive to deploy solar energy technologies.
Credit: Craig Miller Productions
As part of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, the department announced on June 13 a new competition and investments to make it easier and less expensive to deploy solar energy technologies. The department is launching “America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar” competition to aggressively drive down the cost of rooftop solar energy systems. It also is awarding nearly $8 million to nine small businesses to lower the cost of financing, permitting, and other “soft costs,” which can amount to nearly half the cost of residential solar systems. To spur the use of low-cost residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems across the nation, the department is launching America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar competition to challenge U.S. teams to quickly lower the cost of installed rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems. The competition offers a total of $10 million in prize money to the first three U.S. teams that can install 5,000 rooftop solar PV systems at an average price of $2 per watt. By setting an ambitious target, the competition aims to spur creative public-private partnerships, original business models, and innovative approaches to make solar energy affordable for millions of families and businesses. See the America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar competition Web page.
The Energy Department also awarded up to $8 million to support nine highly innovative startups in four states through the SunShot Incubator program. These companies, in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, are developing transformative solutions to streamline solar installation processes such as financing, permitting, and inspection. See the list of projectsPDF.
The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Inspired by President Kennedy’s “Moon Shot” program that put the first man on the moon, the SunShot Initiative has created new momentum for the solar industry by highlighting the need for American competitiveness in the clean energy race. See the DOE press release, and the SunShot Initiative website.

Energy Department Awards Funding for Concentrating Solar Power

The Energy Department announced on June 13 its new investments in 21 projects designed to further advance cutting-edge concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies. The $56 million in awards span three years, subject to congressional appropriations, and cover 13 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and Washington. As part of the planned three-year initiative, Congress appropriated an initial $16.3 million in fiscal year 2011. The Energy Department plans to made additional requests totaling $39.7 million in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to support these CSP projects.
The research projects—conducted in partnership with private industry, national laboratories, and universities—support the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to make solar power cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade. For example, DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories will develop a falling particle receiver and heat exchanger system to increase efficiency and lower costs.
The awards will help speed innovations in new components to lower costs, increase operating temperatures, and improve the efficiency of CSP systems. The 3-year applied research projects will focus on achieving dramatic improvements in CSP performance while driving progress toward the SunShot goal of 75% cost reduction. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight to produce heat, which is then used to produce electricity. CSP systems are distinguished from other solar energy technologies by their ability to store energy as heat so that consumer demand can be met even when the sun is not shining, including during the night. See the DOE press release, the complete list of awardsPDF, and the SunShot Initiative website.

Six New Partners Join the Better Buildings Challenge

The Obama Administration announced on June 14 that six major U.S. companies are joining the Better Buildings Challenge, which encourages private sector leaders across the country to commit to reducing the energy use in their facilities by at least 20% by 2020. Starbucks Coffee Company, Staples, and the J.R. Simplot Company will upgrade more than 50 million square feet of combined commercial building space, including 15 manufacturing facilities. Financial allies Samas Capital and Greenwood Energy will make $200 million in financing available for energy efficiency upgrades through this national leadership initiative. And utility partner Pacific Gas and Electric has committed to offering expanded energy efficiency programs for its commercial customers, who are responsible for 30 million square feet of commercial building space.
The Better Buildings Challenge is part of a comprehensive strategy to improve the competitiveness of U.S. industry and business by helping companies save money by and reducing energy waste in commercial and industrial buildings. Under the challenge, private sector CEOs, university presidents, and state and local leaders commit to taking aggressive steps to reducing energy use in their facilities and sharing data and best practices with others around the country. With the addition of today’s partners and allies, nearly 70 organizations have now joined the Better Buildings Challenge. Together, these organizations account for more than 1.7 billion square feet of building space, including more than 300 manufacturing plants, and they have committed almost $2 billion to support energy efficiency improvements nationwide. See the DOE press release and the Better Buildings Challenge website.

Northwestern University Wins Clean Energy Business Plan Competition

The Energy Department announced on June 14 that NuMat Technologies from Northwestern University has won the first DOE National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The other finalists included teams from the University of Utah, University of Central Florida, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and Columbia University. The competition aims to inspire university teams across the country and promote entrepreneurship in clean energy technologies that will boost American competitiveness, bringing cutting-edge clean energy solutions to the market and strengthening our economic prosperity.
NuMat Technologies presented a plan to commercialize a nanomaterial that stores gases at lower pressure, reducing infrastructure costs and increasing design flexibility. One potential application for this innovation is in designing tanks to store natural gas more efficiently in motor vehicles. NuMat Technologies won based on its commercialization idea, go-to market strategy, team plan, environmental benefits, and potential impact on America’s clean energy economy. As the winning team, Northwestern University was awarded $180,000, which includes seed money for their business plan and additional prizes from sponsors, including technical, design, and legal assistance.
Six teams were invited to present their business ideas to a group of judges from industry and academia after successfully winning at regional level competitions earlier this year. Each team created a business plan around a promising clean energy technology they identified from a university or national lab. The plans detailed how they could bring that technology to market, including financing, product design, scaling up production, and marketing. Funded through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the university-led competition supports the next generation of energy leaders, who will boost American competitiveness. See the DOE press release.

New Centers for Building Operations Excellence Named

The Energy Department and the U.S. Department of Commerce on June 19 announced selections for three Centers for Building Operations Excellence that will receive a total of $1.3 million. The centers will create and deploy programs aimed at training and expanding current and incoming building operators. The Centers are part of the Obama Administration’s Better Buildings Initiative, which is working to improve the energy efficiency of America’s commercial buildings 20% by 2020 and potentially reduce business’ energy bills by approximately $40 billion yearly.
The three Centers for Building Operations Excellence will work with universities, local community and technical colleges, trade associations, and the Energy Department’s national laboratories to build training programs that provide commercial building professionals with the critical skills they need to optimize building efficiency. The DOE and Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technologies’ Manufacturing Extension Partnership are jointly funding the centers. The centers, chosen through a competitive grants process, utilize multi-organization partnerships and support from local and state governments. The centers are: The Corporation for Manufacturing Excellence in California, partnering with Laney College and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39; the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center in Pennsylvania, partnering with Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Drexel University; and the New York State Department of Economic Development in New York, partnering with City University of New York and Rochester Institute of Technology. See the DOE press release and the Better Buildings Initiative website.

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov 

Reports: $257 Billion Invested Globally in Renewable Energy in 2011

Total investment in renewable power and fuels last year increased by 17% to a record $257 billion, according to two new reports on renewable energy trends by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012 is the fifth edition of the UNEP report. It is based on data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Among the highlights is the fact that solar power generation passed wind power to become the renewable energy technology of choice for global investors in 2011. See the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012 reportPDF.
According to the REN21 Renewables 2012 Global Status Report, renewables continued to grow strongly in 2011 in all end-use sectors: power, heating and cooling, and transportation. Renewable sources have grown to supply 16.7% of global energy consumption. Of that, the share provided by traditional biomass has declined slightly while the share sourced from modern renewable technologies has risen. See the REN21 Renewables 2012 Global Status reportPDF.
In 2011, the United States closed the gap with China at the top of the renewables investment rankings. U.S. investments grew 57% to $51 billion. China, which has led the world for two years, recorded renewable energy investment of $52 billion, up 17%. The top seven countries for renewable electricity capacity excluding large hydropower—China, the United States, Germany, Spain, Italy, India, and Japan—accounted for about 70% of total non-hydro renewable capacity worldwide. By the end of 2011, total renewable power capacity worldwide exceeded 1,360 gigawatts (GW), up 8% over 2010; renewables comprised more than 25% of total global power-generating capacity (estimated at 5,360 GW in 2011) and supplied an estimated 20.3% of global electricity. See the UNEP press release.

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Way to Create Biofuels

 

 

 

 

 

 

Way to Create Biofuels

 
Is there a new path to biofuels hiding in a handful of dirt? 
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) biologist Steve Singer leads a group that wants to find out. They’re exploring whether a common soil bacterium can be engineered to produce liquid transportation fuels much more efficiently than the ways in which advanced biofuels are made today.

The scientists are working with a bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha. It naturally uses hydrogen as an energy source to convert CO2 into various organic compounds.

The group hopes to capitalize on the bacteria’s capabilities and tweak it to produce advanced biofuels that are drop-in replacements for diesel and jet fuel. The process would be powered only by hydrogen and electricity from renewable sources such as solar or wind.

The goal is a biofuel—or electrofuel, as this new approach is called—that doesn’t require photosynthesis.

Why is this important? Most methods used to produce advanced biofuels, such as from biomass and algae, rely on photosynthesis. But it turns out that photosynthesis isn’t very efficient when it comes to making biofuel. Energy is lost as photons from the sun are converted to stored chemical energy in a plant, which is then converted to a fuel.

“We’re after a more direct way,” says Singer, who holds appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division and with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a multi-institutional partnership led by Berkeley Lab.

“We want to bypass photosynthesis by using a microbe that uses hydrogen and electricity to convert CO2 into a fuel,” he adds.

Widespread use of electrofuels would also reduce demands for land, water, and fertilizer that are traditionally required to produce biofuels.

Berkeley Lab’s $3.4 million electrofuel project was funded in 2010 by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, which focuses on “high risk, high payoff concepts—technologies promising genuine transformation in the ways we generate, store and utilize energy.”

That pretty much describes electrofuels. ARPA-E estimates the technology has the potential to be ten times more efficient than current biofuel production methods. But electrofuels are currently confined to lab-scale tests. A lot of obstacles must be overcome before you’ll see it at the pump.

Fortunately, research is underway. The Berkeley Lab project is one of thirteen electrofuel projects sponsored by ARPA-E. And earlier this year, ARPA-E issued a request for information focused on the commercialization of the technology.

Singer’s group includes scientists from Virginia-based Logos Technologies and the University of California at Berkeley. The project’s co-principal investigators are Harry Beller, Swapnil Chhabra, and Nathan Hillson, who are also with Berkeley Lab and JBEI; Chris Chang, a UC Berkeley chemist and a faculty scientist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division; and Dan MacEachran of Logos Technologies.

The scientists chose to work with R. eutropha because the bacterium is well understood and it’s already used industrially to make bioplastics.

They’re creating engineered strains of the bacterium at JBEI, all aimed at improving its ability to produce hydrocarbons. This work involves re-routing metabolic pathways in the bacteria. It also involves adding pathways from other microorganisms, such as a pathway engineered in Escherichia coli to produce medium-chain methyl ketones, which are naturally occurring compounds that have cetane numbers similar to those of typical diesel fuel.

The group is also pursuing two parallel paths to further boost production.

In the first approach, Logos Technologies is developing a two-liter bioelectrochemical reactor, which is a conventional fermentation vessel fitted with electrodes. The vessel starts with a mixture of bacteria, CO2, and water. Electricity splits the water into oxygen and hydrogen. The bacteria then use energy from the hydrogen to wrest carbon from CO2 and convert it to hydrocarbons, which migrate to the water’s surface. The scientists hope to skim the first batch of biofuel from the bioreactor in about one year.

In the second approach, the scientists want to transform the bacteria into self-reliant, biofuel-making machines. With help from Chris Chang, they’re developing ways to tether electrocatalysts to the bacteria’s surface. These catalysts use electricity to generate hydrogen in the presence of water.

The idea is to give the bacteria the ability to produce much of their own energy source. If the approach works, the only ingredients the bacteria will need to produce biofuel would be CO2, electricity, and water.

The scientists are now developing ways to attach these catalysts to electrodes and to the surface of the bacteria.

“We’re at the proof-of-principle stage in many ways with this research, but the concept has a lot of potential, so we’re eager to see where we can take this,” says Singer.

 
CCRES
 special thanks to 
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
 

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