PNNL’s Biocrude Oil

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL) have developed a new method for treating human sewage to create a biocrude oil product that can be refined into a fuel akin to gasoline, diesel, or jet fuels.

The process is called hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), and it has been described as a sped-up version of the way the Earth naturally creates crude oil. Researchers apply a considerable amount of heat and pressure to wastewater, breaking down its chemical components into biocrude and an aqueous liquid in minutes.

PNNL says that wastewater treatment plants handle approximately 34 billion gallons of sewage every day. In a Reddit AMA held last week, Justin Billing, one of the scientists on the project, noted that sewage traditionally has three destinations—being turned into fertilizer or soil additive, going in a landfill, or being incinerated. Some wastewater treatment plants (though not all) will also use anaerobic digestion, which “reduce[s] the volume of solids and mitigates the toxic load while also producing methane that can be used for heat and power at the plant,” Billings says. But anaerobic digestion alone can’t solve the whole equation. “From a capital intensity perspective it is reasonable to consider a hydrothermal process like HTL when designing, upgrading, or expanding existing facilities,” he suggested.

Although sewage sludge has been converted to biocrude before, previous methods were considered uneconomical because the sludge had to be dried out before conversion. HTL, on the other hand, pressurizes the sludge to 3,000 pounds per square inch and then heats it up to 660 degrees Fahrenheit (349 degrees Celsius), a process that’s amenable to some liquid being present in the feedstock.

Visit source article with a video from Arstechnica!

24 Hour Solar Thermal Plants

 

The Chilean government recently gave the go-ahead on a massive solar thermal plant that is expected to produce electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week—a considerable feat for a plant that depends solely on solar energy. The plant, proposed for a site in Chile’s Tamarugal province, would consist of three 150 megawatt solar thermal towers, which become heated as mirrors placed around each tower reflect sunlight onto it.

That heat is transferred to molten salt, which circulates through the plant during the day and is stored in tanks at night. The salt, a mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate that’s kept at a balmy 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit (566 degrees Celsius), is used as a “heat transfer fluid.” As energy is needed, the salt can be dispatched to a heat exchanger, where it will lend its heat to water to create a super-heated steam. That steam is used to move a traditional steam turbine to create electricity.

The molten salt generates high quality super-heated steam to drive a standard steam turbine at maximum efficiency and generate reliable non-intermittent electricity during peak demand hours.

SolarReserve, the US-based company that proposed this project, has also proposed two others—a 260 MW, 24-hour plant near the city of Copiapó in the Atacama Region of Chile, as well as a 390 MW, 24-hour plant in the Antofagasta Region. Mary Grikas, a SolarReserve spokesperson, told Ars via e-mail that Copiapó is shovel-ready, and now Tamarugal is, too, with the Chilean government’s recent approval, which assessed the site for environmental impact. The plant in Antofagasta is still waiting on permitting approval.

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Earth Hour: Turn Up the Dark

Earth Hour: Turn Up the Dark is this Saturday March 25th between 8:30-9:30PM local time!

Every year, hundreds of millions of people around the world switch off their lights for one designated hour to demonstrate a commitment to fighting climate change.

Turn off your lights this Saturday to join the world in a spectacular event.

100 Percent Green California

California’s Senate leader wants the Golden State to shift to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045, pushing it to lead the country in grabbing that green power goal.

Environmentalists are cheering California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León’s (D) plan to double, and accelerate, the state’s current renewables mandate of 50 percent by 2050. Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio even tweeted his thanks to de León among his 17 million followers.

The nation’s most populous state switching to fully renewable electricity sounds idealistic. But several experts said it can be done — with a lot depending on definitions, technological advancements and acceptable price tags.

“2045 is a long way away,” said Severin Borenstein, economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “A lot could happen between now and 2045.”

Energy storage through batteries “could get a lot cheaper. That could make the goal much more attainable and much more cost-effective,” he added. Wind and solar energy already are close in price to natural gas, he said. “If you could actually store the power cost-effectively, then you could make it work much more effectively.”

Others warned major expenses would ensue. Large-scale solar and wind projects often go in deserts or other open areas, requiring added infrastructure to move the power to cities, said Evan Birenbaum, who led the environmental strategies program at Los Angeles-area utility Southern California Edison Co. before leaving in 2014. He now heads Chai Energy, which focuses on reducing household energy consumption.

“You would need to build new transmission lines to support the incoming [renewable] power,” Birenbaum said. “Old power lines might not be able to support it.”

Utility substations also likely would need upgrades, he said, adding, “You’re talking about many billions of dollars that have to be invested in that new renewable energy future. It’s the ratepayer who will have to pay for that.”

Borenstein said that calculating how much it will cost nearly 30 years from now is “nearly impossible to answer. … Imagine going back 30 years,” when the internet-connected cellphones used now didn’t exist.

“It’s very hard to predict technology 30 years in advance,” he added.

FFT: Although goals and estimates for 100% renewable energy may not be accurate to the year, the challenge gives us perspective as we progress towards the goal. Who knows, maybe we’ll even beat it.

( Visit the full article at the Scientific America )

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-california-go-100-percent-green/

 

First Renewable Energy Island

A tiny Spanish island with just 10,000 residents is about to do something amazing. El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands, plans to completely sever ties with the traditional power grid and move entirely to renewable energy. The island plans to become completely self sufficient next month when its 11.5 megawatt wind farm kicks into gear. El Hierro already has a water turbine that generates electricity, and the added wind power will enable the island to go totally off-grid.

The island actually generates enough power for its residential needs with just the water turbines, but the wind power allows El Hierro to have a little extra power, which will be used to pump fresh water from near the harbor on the island to a reservoir in a volcanic crater 2,300-feet above the sea. When there is not enough wind for electricity needs, that water will be released to feed down into the water turbines to generate more energy, so the island will always have enough power to keep things running.

Imagine if more islands are able to farm such energy. Over time and trials of projects like these, we will learn of ways to make building out wind turbines to be more efficient and effective. In a closed environment such as islands this could be rather optimal.

(Check out the source article on inhabitant for more information!)

Offshore Wind

When engineers faced resistance from residents in Denmark over plans to build wind turbines on the Nordic country’s flat farmland, they found a better locale: the sea. The offshore wind farm, the world’s first, had just 11 turbines and could power about 3,000 homes.

That project now looks like a minnow compared with the whales that sprawl for miles across the seas of Northern Europe.

Off this venerable British port city, a Danish company, Dong Energy, is installing 32 turbines that stretch 600 feet high. Each turbine produces more power than that first facility.

It is precisely the size, both of the projects and the profits they can bring, that has grabbed the attention of financial institutions, money managers and private equity funds, like the investment bank Goldman Sachs, as well as wealthy individuals like the owner of the Danish toymaker Lego. As the technology has improved and demand for renewable energy has risen, costs have fallen.

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Foldable Solar Panels

We can now fold up solar panels that are nearly unbreakable and take them with us anywhere.

Instead of one solid sheet, these highly portable panels are made from a pliable network of glitter-sized solar cells.

A typical solar panel—more than five feet long and encased in glass—isn’t exactly portable. But a new type of solar technology, miniaturized so that each cell is the size of a piece of glitter, could be used anywhere.

The tiny cells are made from high-efficiency silicon, like standard solar panels. But the new form means that they’re not only small but flexible, and can be folded up for transportation, incorporated into clothing, or easily used in electronics.

Conventional solar panels “are brittle because they’re crystalline,” Murat Okandan, CEO of mPower Technology, the startup making the new technology, tells Co.Exist. “If you bend or flex them, at some point they’ll just break and shatter. By making our cells small and then interconnecting them we’re able to make them almost unbreakable.”

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Turning Coal Carbon Emissions to Baking Soda

A coal-powered plant in Tuticorin, India has found an innovative way to capture carbon emissions — by recycling them into soda ash, an ingredient in common household products like bleach, sweeteners, and even your toothpaste.

The typical carbon capturing method filters out the carbon before it is released into the atmosphere and stores it in a separate containment. But Tuticorin is changing it up by crystallizing the coal and turning it into soda ash — otherwise known as baking soda.

That baking soda byproduct means Tuticorin has made carbon capture profitable: Not only is it environmentally wise, but dirty waste is being re-imagined to sell plastic, rubber, or glass manufacturing.

With solar, wind, and hydropower resources becoming more accessible to the masses, the demand for natural gas is expected to be on the decline, making this carbon capture method attractive to businesses and consumers alike. According to the Ren21 Global Status Report for 2015, the world invested twice as much in clean energy as they did in the oil and gas industry. Previous roadblocks have stopped the U.S. from investing in carbon capture in the past. But this new mechanism can be outfitted to any plant — no matter how old — and is much more affordable.

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The World’s First Solar Road

In a small northern town in France a road has opened which is paved with solar cells. The goal is to see if the highway can power the town, which has 3,400 residents. On the other hand, it still wasn’t cheap for them to build it. In order to fashion a single 1 kilometer lane it cost around 5 million euro. It is also not the most energy efficient way to harness solar energy because the panels are flat on the ground and not optimally oriented towards the sun throughout the day. Nevertheless, it is a way to generate clean energy from existing infrastructure. Its been said that the government hopes to expand the project to other roadways as well.

With advent of more effective solar cells we may see the price drop per kilometer of pavement bit by bit!

(Visit the Source link here!)

Solar Wheelchair

A team of students and faculty from the University of Virginia School of Engineering created a prototype design of a solar powered wheelchair with retractable panels inspired by the idea from a man with cerebral palsy from Turkey. Their goal was to create a prototype of a solar powered wheelchair with retractable panels for individuals with lower extremity or mobility disabilities, spinal cord injury, or cerebral palsy. The Solar Powered Team (SPT) created the prototype using a Shoprider 6Runner wheelchair. They built a structured frame around the base of the wheelchair to hold the solar panels. Three solar panels were attached to a convertible-like structure which rotates back behind the wheelchair.

(Visit the Source link to find out more info!)

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