Archive for November 29th, 2010

Coming Soon: $20 ‘Solar to Hydrogen’ Conversion System

Sun Catalytix, an American company founded by a MIT professor, is working on a low-cost ‘solar to hydrogen’ power system and plans to launch it within the next 18 months. The product which was announced about two years ago has attracted millions of dollars in investment from the Indian industrial giant Tata.

The system works by utilizing solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then stored to be used later. While there is nothing new in this technology, the way in which the the system does these things is completely revolutionary. The system can use water from any source, be it river water, sea water or even waste water. The company claims to that the system is highly efficient and is capable of powering a house with only two bottles of water from ‘any source’.

The conventional technology used for splitting water into hydrogen is costly as it requires extremely high energy to break the bonds between the water molecules. Professor Daniel Nocera, however, thought of a more natural way to achieve the same results. The hydrogen-splitting technology closely resembles the natural processes found in plant and bacteria. The system uses cobalt phosphate-based catalyst which operates at atmospheric pressure which is significantly advantageous when compared to the conventional catalysts.

The hydrogen produced can be stored in a secured container and can be recombined with oxygen in a controlled manner, in a fuel cell, to generate electricity. The water produced as a by-product can be used again to generate hydrogen.

Such power systems would be extremely beneficial for people living in developing and poor countries. Roof-top solar panels can be used to operate such a system. Thus, during the day power would be generated directly from the solar panels during the day and during night from the hydrogen-powered fuel cell. Communities living in rural and remote areas can also benefit greatly from this technology as it could lead to a distributed power generation revolution.

The Tata Group, which pioneers in low-cost technologies, has taken serious interest in the technology. In October this year, the Tatas invested $9.5 million in Sun Catalytix. According to some reports, the investments are actually much higher and sources claim that Tata Group’s chairman Ratan Tata is a co-owner of the company. In an interview to an Indian news channel, Ratan Tata said that he has immense interest in the new energy technologies like electric cars.

If the Tata Group launches the Sun Catalytix power system in India it could prove revolutionary in the Indian power scenario. The Tatas, through their joint venture with BP in TataBP Solar, are one of the leading solar panel fabrication company in India. Combined with their solar panels, probably financed with a soft loan mechanism, TataBP solar can market this energy system to millions of rural homes in India.

The final cost of the entire system would be higher than $20, owing to the costs of solar panels, storage equipment and fuel cell. But the cost of hydrogen generation would be much cheaper than the conventional technology which costs up to $12,000 per Kw, according to Prof Nocera.

Image: MIT

Follow Mridul Chadha on Twitter and Facebook


Visit the original post at: Energy News

Is California’s High-Speed Rail Getting More or Less Money Under the New Congress?

Screenshot of high-speed rail visualization from California High-Speed Rail Project

The incoming Congress is turning a lot of things around that were on a steady, even path forward, or looking to do so, at least. One big thing many incoming Republicans are taking aim at is high-speed rail. No surprise here, since high-speed rail has been a big focus of the Obama administration (due to its many benefits), and the focus of such Republicans seems to just be taking down anything Obama is working on.

Anyway, the biggest and one of the most likely high-speed rail projects in the U.S. is the California high-speed rail project. I’ve read articles lately about how this project may lose a bit of its funding as well as articles discussing how it may get more federal funding. So, which is it?

How California Could Lose High-Speed Rail Funding

Basically, 27 House Republicans want to pull the plug on “$2 billion in stimulus funds promised to California to kick-start the massive project” as well as another $10 billion for other projects and purposes around the nation. These Republicans have introduced the American Recovery and Reinvestment Rescission Act aimed at cancelling the disbursement of the final $12 billion of unspent and uncommitted stimulus funds — they would prefer this money just get sent to the U.S. Treasury.

California has only spent about $200 million of its $2.25 billion high-speed rail stimulus fund award because it is saving the remaining $2 billion or so for construction, which it intends to start in 2012.

Keeping this money from California would be a horrible idea and would seriously delay if not halt work on the project, but, luckily, it is seems unlikely that a Democrat-controlled Senate or Obama are going to support this proposal to undo the work they have put in over the past couple years getting the U.S. economy back on its feet.

So, it is unlikely this money will ever be kept from California.

How California Could Gain High-Speed Rail Funds

With a number of newly-elected governors saying they are going to reject the money the federal government has awarded them for high-speed rail projects (which cannot be redirected to less efficient and less economically beneficial road projects in their states), there could be a lot more available for states that are deciding to move forward with their high-speed rail plans. California could be one such state (in fact, it is quite likely that it would be). For more on this, check out: California Beckons High-Speed Rail Despite Midterm Derailment in Funding

While a transformative transportation project like this — the largest public works project in California in 50 years — is sure to continue facing some opposition, I would say that California’s high-speed rail future looks brighter than most states’.

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Image Credit: screenshot of California high-speed rail visualization


Visit the original post at: Energy News

CARe 500: The Electric Fiat 500 Having a Prius Price Tag, Available For Sale in Europe
It looks like the Fiat 500 is the source of inspiration for many start-up car manufacturers lately. After the TwinAir enhancement Fiat did to its own famous brand and the plug-in hybrid presented in Vienna, a company called mk-group Holding GmbH, is selling a pure electric car based on the 500, the CARe 500, for an interesting price.


Visit the original post at: Energy News

The Wind Energy Industry is Nothing New
The Wind Energy Industry is Nothing New

Though our scientists may claim that they are inventing something new by using wind as a source of generating energy, the truth is that wind is being used for centuries for this purpose. An example of this is an article published in 1838, which clearly shows that even in those times, wind was considered [...]
Posted in: Ethanol



Visit the original post at: Energy News

Addressing Oil Company Subsidies

Addressing Oil Company Subsidies

Join the forum discussion on this post

Following my recent essay on the elimination of the VEETC, the major ethanol subsidy in the U.S., some ethanol supporters argued for continuing the subsidies because oil companies receive subsidies. There are many versions of the oil subsidy argument – some of them grossly in error – but I won’t argue about what is and is not an oil subsidy.

I do believe that gasoline at the pump is subsidized in various ways. But these subsidies aren’t as simple as a credit based on the number of gallons of gasoline sold – as is the case with the ethanol subsidy. If they were, they would be much easier to eliminate.

My solution to addressing these hidden subsidies would be to artificially increase the cost of gasoline such that consumers are paying something more like fully realized costs. I have made the argument before that if we were to implement a revenue neutral scheme like lowering income taxes or offering tax credits while offsetting those with higher gas taxes, the cost of oil subsidies could be recouped at the pump, proportionately from people who drive the most. This would also improve the economic viability for biofuels because they would be competing against higher fossil fuel prices.

However, many of the so-called oil company subsidies are also subsidies that the ethanol industry receives. For instance, Section 199 of the IRS code is a deduction for domestic production activities. This has often been used as an example of an oil company subsidy, yet the ethanol industry receives the same tax deduction. So in cases like this, the “subsidy” has no impact on the competitiveness of one industry against the other.

But to the extent that oil companies are subsidized, the answer to that is to eliminate those subsidies, not to throw subsidies at the ethanol industry. The important thing to keep in mind is that the oil companies – subsidized or not – are still under mandate to blend ever-increasing volumes of ethanol into their product. Adding in a subsidy on top of these mandated volumes is redundant, irrespective of how much the oil industry is subsidized.

As far as subsidies themselves, I am neither for or against them. It depends. The question I would ask is what are the consequences with and without the subsidies. If an oil company subsidy merely preferentially increases the profitability of an oil company relative to other industries (i.e., a special subsidy that other industries don’t receive), I would be against it. If it increased domestic production and backed out imports, then the overall costs to society have to be taken into account in order to judge whether it is a good taxpayer investment.

This is why I oppose the continuation of the VEETC, as explained in the aforementioned post. Whether the VEETC is there or not, oil companies are still under mandate to blend an ever-increasing amount of ethanol. So the consequences of allowing it to expire aren’t going to be great relative to the $6 billion per year cost of continuing it. If the debate was on continuing the VEETC in some form for only blending above the mandated level, or on some modified version applying to only E85, then that’s a different discussion entirely.



Visit the original post at: Energy News

Solar Maps Help Foster Sustainable Cities
Solar energy is more accessible to Americans than ever before. There are federal tax credits, cheaper photovoltaic systems on the market and hefty rebates that make a return on investment more attractive.
Visit the original post at: Renewable Energy News – RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Non-charity Solar Businesses Empower Rural Villages

Visit the original post at: Renewable Energy News – RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Electric Vehicles Are Here: But is the Jargon Really Helping?

Visit the original post at: Renewable Energy News – RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Seven Stress Relievers: Natural, Green Ways to Fix Any Day
Hiding from the world under your pillows? Finding yourself having small panic attacks or just need to relax? Forget binge-drinking and saving up for Club Med, we have seven surefire ways to soothe your inner stress monster!
Visit the original post at: ENN: Lifestyle

Iceland on My Cake, Please

Iceland on My Cake, Please
coffee herbert photo
Photo: Megan Herbert

You could make your regular morning cappucino (skimmed milk, please) like you always do. Or you could get a little espresso powder, shake it over a Megan Herbert stencil and sip your foam through a woodland scene.

Or sift some chocolate through one of the stencils onto a cake for tea. No flat surface is immune to decoration…

Read the full story on TreeHugger
Visit the original post at: TreeHugger

São Paulo putting 50 Scania ethanol buses into service

São Paulo, Brazil has ordered 50 Scania ethanol buses as the first wave of a planned initial fleet of 200 ethanol buses (earlier post). The first 50 buses will go into service in May.

There are a total of some 15,000 public transport buses in São Paulo. One official environmental target is that all such buses should operate on renewable fuels by no later than 2018.

Since the supply of biogas is limited, ethanol will be the dominant biofuel. This means there is very large potential for Scania, which is the only manufacturer of heavy-duty buses with ethanol-powered engines.

—Wilson Pereira, head of sales of Buses and Coaches at Scania Brasil

Scania is receiving the ethanol bus order after a few years of field trials in São Paulo, coordinated by experts with links to the University of São Paulo and with participation by ethanol suppliers, bus bodybuilders, operators and São Paulo transport authorities.

All buses will be manufactured in Brazil. Chassis assembly will take place at Scania’s production unit in São Paulo and bodywork will be done by a local company.


Visit the original post at: Transportation News

São Paulo putting 50 Scania ethanol buses into service

São Paulo, Brazil has ordered 50 Scania ethanol buses as the first wave of a planned initial fleet of 200 ethanol buses (earlier post). The first 50 buses will go into service in May.

There are a total of some 15,000 public transport buses in São Paulo. One official environmental target is that all such buses should operate on renewable fuels by no later than 2018.

Since the supply of biogas is limited, ethanol will be the dominant biofuel. This means there is very large potential for Scania, which is the only manufacturer of heavy-duty buses with ethanol-powered engines.

—Wilson Pereira, head of sales of Buses and Coaches at Scania Brasil

Scania is receiving the ethanol bus order after a few years of field trials in São Paulo, coordinated by experts with links to the University of São Paulo and with participation by ethanol suppliers, bus bodybuilders, operators and São Paulo transport authorities.

All buses will be manufactured in Brazil. Chassis assembly will take place at Scania’s production unit in São Paulo and bodywork will be done by a local company.


Visit the original post at: Transportation News

São Paulo putting 50 Scania ethanol buses into service

São Paulo, Brazil has ordered 50 Scania ethanol buses as the first wave of a planned initial fleet of 200 ethanol buses (earlier post). The first 50 buses will go into service in May.

There are a total of some 15,000 public transport buses in São Paulo. One official environmental target is that all such buses should operate on renewable fuels by no later than 2018.

Since the supply of biogas is limited, ethanol will be the dominant biofuel. This means there is very large potential for Scania, which is the only manufacturer of heavy-duty buses with ethanol-powered engines.

—Wilson Pereira, head of sales of Buses and Coaches at Scania Brasil

Scania is receiving the ethanol bus order after a few years of field trials in São Paulo, coordinated by experts with links to the University of São Paulo and with participation by ethanol suppliers, bus bodybuilders, operators and São Paulo transport authorities.

All buses will be manufactured in Brazil. Chassis assembly will take place at Scania’s production unit in São Paulo and bodywork will be done by a local company.


Visit the original post at: Transportation News

São Paulo putting 50 Scania ethanol buses into service

São Paulo, Brazil has ordered 50 Scania ethanol buses as the first wave of a planned initial fleet of 200 ethanol buses (earlier post). The first 50 buses will go into service in May.

There are a total of some 15,000 public transport buses in São Paulo. One official environmental target is that all such buses should operate on renewable fuels by no later than 2018.

Since the supply of biogas is limited, ethanol will be the dominant biofuel. This means there is very large potential for Scania, which is the only manufacturer of heavy-duty buses with ethanol-powered engines.

—Wilson Pereira, head of sales of Buses and Coaches at Scania Brasil

Scania is receiving the ethanol bus order after a few years of field trials in São Paulo, coordinated by experts with links to the University of São Paulo and with participation by ethanol suppliers, bus bodybuilders, operators and São Paulo transport authorities.

All buses will be manufactured in Brazil. Chassis assembly will take place at Scania’s production unit in São Paulo and bodywork will be done by a local company.


Visit the original post at: Transportation News

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