Tagged: electricity

China’s Xinjiang bursting with an excess of green energy


Click to enlarge

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a major power supplier in China, has accelerated the development of green energy as it recorded higher installed capacity in 2013.

Statistics with the Xinjiang branch of the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) showed that by 2013, the combined installed capacity of wind power, hydropower and solar power stations exceeded 1,368 million KW, accounting for about one third of all installed capacity in Xinjiang….

A project to connect the Xinjiang power grid to the northwest China grid was launched in 2010 to transmit Xinjiang’s redundant electric power to other parts of the country. The money made from this is used for developing Xinjiang.

The SGCC Xinjiang branch has put an average annual investment of 500 million yuan towards green energy projects.

Total installed capacity is expected to reach 6,048 million KW by the end of 2014, and that of green power will exceed 2,200 million KW.

While this wee post may seem a bit foreign to many of my readers you have to understand I live in a part of the United States with many parallels to Xinjiang.

Aside from some historic political differences, the natural landscape is often similar. As is the potential. It’s been 20 or 30 years since the New Mexico state engineer’s office determined we had sufficient resources to be a net exporter of wind-generated electricity. We are equally capable of filling state needs and then exporting solar-generated electricity.

The technology for each of these alternatives has improved and become more cost effective over the decades – while the state, local power utilities and the federal government have accomplished little more than a sampling of what might be if they were as serious about non-polluting power generation as they all are about the crap coal mined and burned in the Four Corners.

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China’s capital to begin replacing some coal-fired plants


Auld Reekie

China will replace four coal-burning heating plants in the capital Beijing with natural gas fired ones by the end of next year as it steps up efforts to clean up pollution…

The report, citing the city’s Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, said the four plants and some 40 other related projects would cost around $8 billion and cut sulphur dioxide emissions by 10,000 metric tons. It did not detail the related projects.

The plan is the latest step by authorities to deal with a persistent smog crisis in China’s big cities that is fuelling public anger. The capital has been shrouded in thick hazardous smog for several days during the ongoing seven-day national holiday.

China has been under pressure to tackle air pollution to douse potential unrest as an increasingly affluent urban populace turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has besmirched much of China’s air, water and soil.

Last month the government announced plans to slash coal consumption and close polluting mills, factories and smelters, though experts said implementing the targets would be a major challenge.

The new plants will replace four coal-fired ones that provide heating for homes in the city’s central urban area as well as generating electricity, Xinhua said.

Beijing is the Auld Reekie of the 21st Century. For those of you who don’t know the term, it described Edinburgh [and London] not only in the years before World War 2, but, especially afterwards during the efforts to ramp industrial production back up to speed in the UK.

Then, as now, though industrial use was a significant portion of the air pollution, everyone’s attachment to their wee coal fire heating the main rooms of home was a tough cultural obstacle – just as central to established urban life in Beijing. The solution has to be the same – replacing those coal fires with natural gas or electricity generated by means other than burning coal.

The cost of bringing large volumes of natural gas to locations in and around Beijing also lays the groundwork for local provision and access to that cleaner substitute for coal. Smart idea.

New opportunities found to generate electricity from waste heat

Zhifeng-Qian
Zhifeng Ren, left, and Qian Zhang

Physicists at the University of Houston’s physics department and the Texas Center for Superconductivity are working on an innovation that could boost vehicle mileage by 5 percent and power plant and industrial processing performance as much as 10 percent.

Their research uses non-toxic materials – tin telluride, with the addition of the chemical element indium – for waste heat recovery.

Telluride has been studied for years, said Zhifeng Ren, M.D., professor of physics at UH and lead author of a paper describing the work…

But earlier work faltered because lead-containing telluride, despite its strong thermoelectric properties, can’t be used commercially because of the health risks associated with lead, Ren said.

That has sparked the rush for a similar, but safer compound…

Qian Zhang, a research associate in Ren’s group who designed the experiment, said she ultimately decided to add another element, known as a dopant, to alter the electrical properties of the tin telluride. In this case, she added indium to boost its conducting properties.

In one example, the device could capture heat from a car’s tailpipe and convert it to power the car’s electronics, improving the car’s mileage by about 5 percent, Ren said.

Even 1 percent, every day, would be huge,” he said, considering how much crude oil is consumed worldwide…

But capturing car exhaust and converting it to electricity is only one example of how the process can be used. It could also be used in power plants – Ren suggested it could boost the conversion rate of coal-fired power plants from 40 percent to as much as 48 percent ­­­­– and other industrial plants.

In some cases, Ren said, the efficiency gain could reach 10 percent.

Every little bit helps. In this instance, a small portion equals an enormous quantity of wasted energy and heat pollution.

Wind turbines DON’T lower property values – Gasp!

Green-Google-Wind-Farm-Investment-Wind-Power-RPM-Access-Nordex-USA-Renewable-Energy-Iowa1

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, as Bob Dylan said. But whether or not it’s a good idea to build wind turbines to harness wind energy has been a matter of some debate in communities throughout the country and world.

One of the main arguments used by those who oppose the turbines is that they decrease property and home values. But a new study effectively puts that argument to rest.

The study, published this month, looked at more than 50,000 home and property sales near 67 wind facilities in nine U.S. states and found no average decrease in home properties when windmills were built nearby. Study author Ben Hoen, a policy researcher…at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said it’s the second large-scale study he’s been involved with that’s shown such a result.

“Regardless of the home’s model and construction, regardless of how we slice the data set, we still ended up with the same result: We cannot find evidence of an impact that turbines have on nearby property values,” Hoen said…

Most windmills aren’t placed in densely populated areas, however. In this case, the argument can become a matter of aesthetics, with some claiming they are eyesores. But many also see them as beautiful kinetic sculptures, John Rogers, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told LiveSience.

The fact that windmills usually don’t affect home prices suggests that the other concerns (annoyance, potential health effects, etc.) aren’t widespread enough to have an economic impact, Hoen said. Or widespread enough to detract from their environmental upside.

Studies have shown, however, that windmills may in some instances have significant impacts on birds and bats. Usually, though, “there are ways to find proper sites for wind farms to avoid, minimize or compensate for the impact it might have on wildlife,” Rogers said.

Some of the new coastal offshore wind farms have become tourist attractions. Of course, the answer to that from some Luddites is that “those people” haven’t good taste. Uh-huh.

World’s wind turbines will pass the 300 gigawatt mark this year

The world will have enough wind turbines to generate more than 300 gigawatts of power – the equivalent of 114 nuclear power plants – by the end of the year, industry figures show.

As Brazil, China, Mexico and South Africa add turbines, the figure represents modest growth compared with a year ago, when the overall total capacity was just over 280 gigawatts…

Europe, which has led the world on wind, still represents around a third of all capacity, with more than 100 gigawatts, but its growth has been stalled by uncertainty as financial crisis has meant abrupt changes to subsidy regimes…

The most heated debate has been in Germany, ahead of elections in September, where the cost of energy and progress of implementing the nation’s Energiewende – or transition to green energy and away from nuclear fuel – are election issues.

Heavy industry has attacked renewable subsidies, arguing they add to costs and damage competitiveness, especially when the United States benefits from cheap shale gas.

Representatives of the renewable industry say they are working to produce energy that can compete economically with traditional sources, which would lower political risk.

They say they have made progress on onshore wind and solar, but for the huge scale of offshore wind, a technology still in its infancy, subsidies are essential, probably for the rest of the decade…

Wind energy executives note conventional fuel sources have long benefited from support in the form of tax breaks for oil and gas and government help in disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

State and federal subsidies have been part of construction costs for every kind of power station built in the last century. Not that the fact isn’t brought up as a special case by know-nothings who oppose reductions in the consumption of fossil fuel and the inevitable effects that has on environmental quality. Sometimes, subsidies are also added in to defray fuel costs, as well. Something never going to be needed by renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro.

Dairy powers itself with cow poop — including 42 tractor-trailers

Here at one of the largest dairy farms in the country, electricity generated using an endless supply of manure runs the equipment to milk around 30,000 cows three times a day.

For years, the farm has used livestock waste to create enough natural gas to power 10 barns, a cheese factory, a cafe, a gift shop and a maze of child-friendly exhibits about the world of dairy, including a 3D movie theater.

All that, and Fair Oaks Farms was still using only about half of the five million pounds of cow manure it vacuumed up from its barn floors on a daily basis. It burned off the excess methane, wasted energy sacrificed to the sky.

But not anymore.

The farm is now turning the extra manure into fuel for its delivery trucks, powering 42 tractor-trailers that make daily runs to raw milk processing plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Officials from the federal Department of Energy called the endeavor a “pacesetter” for the dairy industry, and said it was the largest natural gas fleet using agricultural waste to drive this nation’s roads.

As long as we keep milking cows, we never run out of gas,” said Gary Corbett, chief executive of Fair Oaks, which held a ribbon-cutting event for the project this month and opened two fueling stations to the public…

The American Gas Association estimates there are about 1,200 natural gas fueling stations operating across the country, the vast majority of which are supplied by the same pipelines that heat houses.

But the growing market is also drawing interest from livestock farmers, landfill management companies and other industries handling methane-rich material that, if harnessed, could create a nearly endless supply of cleaner, safer, sustainable “biogas,” while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To be sure, no one is pretending that waste-to-energy projects will become a major part of the larger natural gas vehicle market. But supporters say it could provide additional incentive to make biogas systems, which have lagged behind other sustainable energy solutions, more commercially viable.

RTFA. Partnerships are growing between dairy farmers and NatGas industry providers. They say we’ll be surprised how much they will grow over the next five years.

I’m ready to be surprised. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.

Milestone: Nuclear plant closing because of low natgas prices

Dominion Resources plans to shut its Kewaunee plant in Wisconsin next year, the first U.S. nuclear plant to fall victim to the steep drop in power prices as rising natural gas production makes some plants uncompetitive.

After claiming hundreds of coal-fired plants, the boom in U.S. shale gas output is now starting to grind down the nuclear industry, with smaller older plants like the 566-megawatt Kewaunee plant first to be affected.

The surge in U.S. shale gas has upended the domestic power market, and this year combined with flagging demand due to the struggling economy to send prices to near 10-year lows. For the nuclear industry, it means the Dominion plant…will be the first U.S. reactor to shut since the late 1990s.

The closing, which did not catch many in the industry by surprise, highlights the struggle of the U.S. “nuclear renaissance…”

Natural gas’ share of total U.S. generation has increased to 30 percent this year from about 20 percent in 2006, while the percentage from nuclear has held steady at about 20 percent.

Power prices in the PJM grid, the nation’s biggest power grid, for the first nine months of 2012 were down almost 30 percent from the same period last year and the lowest since 2002.

While nuclear plants can still produce power more cheaply than natural gas, analysts say future capital investments, which could run into the hundreds of millions or more at existing reactors, might prompt operators to shut some units.

“A number of nuclear units won’t run their 60-year licensed lives if current gas price forecasts prove accurate,” said Peter Bradford, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission…

“The determining factor is likely to come at the point at which they need to decide on a major capital investment.”

Anyone who measures the construction cost of a modern nuclear power plant – built in the United States – in millions of dollars instead of billions, is smoking the seeds. Medical marijuana or otherwise.

Escalating costs – for all the reasons that come easily to mind – are the essential factor that turned my support for nuclear power generation in directions like solar power generation. A process which is gradually diminishing in cost.

That natural gas is booming in availability and prices continue to drop or stabilize at historically low levels – is a great reason to hasten conversion of existing coal-fired plants to NatGas and to concentrate on NatGas-based new construction.

Wave energy project ready to go online off the Oregon coast


When the pilot operation is up and running…

About 15 years ago, this environmentally conscious state with a fir tree on its license plates began pushing the idea of making renewable energy from the ocean waves that bob and swell on the Pacific horizon. But then one of the first test-buoy generators, launched with great fanfare, promptly sank. It was not a good start.

But time and technology turned the page, and now the first commercially licensed grid-connected wave-energy device in the nation, designed by a New Jersey company, Ocean Power Technologies, is in its final weeks of testing before a planned launch in October. The federal permit for up to 10 generators came last month, enough, the company says, to power about 1,000 homes. When engineers are satisfied that everything is ready, a barge will carry the 260-ton pioneer to its anchoring spot about two and a half miles offshore near the city of Reedsport, on the central coast…

Adding to the breath-holding nature of the moment, energy experts and state officials said, is that Oregon is also in the final stages of a long-term coastal mapping and planning project that is aiming to produce, by late this year or early next, a blueprint for where wave energy could be encouraged or discouraged based on potential conflicts with fishing, crabbing and other marine uses.

The project’s leader, Paul Klarin, said wave technology is so new, compared to, say, wind energy, that the designs are like a curiosity shop — all over the place in creative thinking about how to get the energy contained in a wave into a wire in a way that is cost-effective and efficient…

Energy development groups around the world are closely watching what happens here, because success or failure with the first United States commercial license could affect the flow of private investment by bigger companies that have mostly stayed on the shore while smaller entrepreneurs struggled in the surf. Ocean Power Technologies also will be seeking money to build more generators.

Here in Oregon, the momentum of research appears to be increasing. Last month, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center — financed by the United States Department of Energy in collaboration with Oregon State University and the University of Washington — deployed one of the first public wave energy testing systems in the nation, called Ocean Sentinel, about two and a half hours from Portland, in Newport. The first device tested was a half-scale prototype from a New Zealand company…

“Wave energy is essentially an accumulation of wind energy,” Charles F. Dunleavy, the chief executive at Ocean Power Technologies, said in a telephone interview. In the northern Pacific, he said, consistent winds fuel consistent waves, and the distance they travel in their rolling line creates a huge area of wave energy, or fetch, that a bobbing buoy can capture…

But the project also hinges on squeezing out the tiniest of incremental efficiencies in tapping the waves as they come. On the Ocean Power Technologies buoy, which looks like a giant cannon stuffed with electronics, company engineers pursued an insight that sailors have known in their sea legs since the days of Odysseus: every wave is different.

RTFA for anecdotes, examples and the predictably cpu-based tech essential to developing flexible power production. Poisonally, I’m looking forward to learning how this project does at producing sustainable electricity generation.

Waves are like wind. We ain’t going to run out anytime soon.

Fuel cell could turn wastewater plant into electricity producer


Research at Oregon State University by engineer Hong Liu

In the latest green energy – or perhaps that should be brown energy – news, a team of engineers from Oregon State University (OSU) has developed new technology they claim significantly improves the performance of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that can be used to produce electricity directly from wastewater. With the promise of producing 10 to 50 times the electricity, per volume, than comparable approaches, the researchers say the technology could see waste treatment plants not only powering themselves, but also feeding excess electricity back to the grid.

The electricity-generating potential of microbes has been known for decades, however, it is only in recent years that efforts to increase the amount of electricity generated to commercially viable levels has started to bear fruit. In MFCs, bacteria are used to oxidize organic matter – be it in wastewater, grass straw, animal waste, and byproducts from such operations as the wine, beer or dairy industries – which produces electrons that run from the anode to the cathode within the fuel cell to create an electrical current.

By adopting a number of new concepts, including reducing the anode-cathode spacing, and using evolved microbes and new separator materials, the researchers say they have been able to produce MFCs that produce more than two kilowatts per cubic meter of liquid reactor volume. The researchers point out this power density is much higher than has been achieved previously and could see the new technology replacing the widely used “activated sludge” process that has been used for almost a century…

The team has proven the system “at a substantial scale in the laboratory” and is now seeking funding to scale things up with a pilot study. A contained system that produces a steady supply of certain types of wastewater that would provide significant amounts of electricity, such as a food processing plant, is seen as an ideal candidate for such a test…

If this technology works on a commercial scale the way we believe it will, the treatment of wastewater could be a huge energy producer, not a huge energy cost,” said Hong Liu, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering. “This could have an impact around the world, save a great deal of money, provide better water treatment and promote energy sustainability.”

Bravo! I have to track down the email address for Santa Fe’s wastewater treatment plant up north of us on county road 56. They’re already powering basic needs with solar panels; but, I’m willing to bet they’d be interested in something like this.