Saturday, October 31, 2009

DOE Funds Wind Turbine Innovation

There is change in the wind. It's a revolution that won't be driven simply by putting up more conventional windmill farms to generate clean energy. It's about innovation -- radical design changes that will increase efficiency and reduce the cost and size of wind turbines.

“FloDesign Wind Turbine Corporation is going to revolutionize the way we capture energy from the wind,” says CEO Stanley Kowalski III. “Our wind turbine will produce more wind energy with less impact on the environment. Our turbines are smaller, can function in a variety of climates, and can work closer to the ground.”

Kowalski [no relation to me] says his company's turbine design resembles a jet engine, an approach that allows it to capture much more wind energy while taking up less space than traditional turbines. The turbine draws on its jet engine expertise from parent company, aerospace engineering firm FloDesign. The blades are much smaller than those of existing windmills and they are surrounded by a shroud, resembling a jet engine. Wind hitting the turbine flows through the blades as well as around the shroud to create a rapid-mixing vortex, extracting 3 to 4 times as much energy from the wind as traditional turbines.

The turbine spins efficiently at lower wind speeds, and can also sustain higher speeds than conventional turbines. A fin directs the turbine to face the direction of the wind without motorized alignment and maximizes the amount of energy it receives. The smaller size of FloDesign turbine design will lower the shipping costs compared to traditional turbines and permit more turbines in a given area of land.

Watch this informative video to see the innovative design features in action (very cool!):

FloDesign Wind Turbine Corporation has built a small prototype for wind tunnel tests. On October 26, 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on awarded $8.3 million to the company. FloDesign's proposal was among 37 nationwide to receive funding totaling $151 million from DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, who's mission is to develop potential breakthrough energy technologies.

Kowalski said the company currently employs about 20 people and expects to expand to more than 75 by the end of 2010. The jobs to be added will primarily be engineering jobs, he said. “The next newsworthy event for us is the installation of our prototype, somewhere in Western Massachusetts we hope. We’re evaluating sites right now,” he said.

The Massachusetts-based company is hunting for another $25 million to deploy full scale test rigs. Last year, it landed two start-up awards from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including cash grants of $300,000. The company also received $6 million in venture capital in an initial funding round in 2008.

If everything goes according to plan, the company will start taking orders and build wind turbines that generate one megawatt.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act

The Senate climate bill, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, was released by sponsoring Senators Kerry and Boxer on September 30, 2009. This is an independent version of the House of Representatives climate bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which was passed earlier this year. If the Senate bill is passed, the Senate and House will then reconcile their versions, vote, and if that version is passed, Congress will send it on to President Obama.

The White House is running its own climate campaign, meeting with more than half the Senate, making calls to almost 100 mayors, and meeting with many governors. Their goal, according to Carol Browner, the president's assistant for energy and climate change, "is to get the bill moving and keep it moving." However, Ms. Browner is not optimisic about the bill being passed before the December's UN conference in Copenhagen.

President Obama welcomed a Senate bill to cut carbon emissions and said he was "deeply committed" to passing it even as the White House played down chances that it would happen this year. Obama, whose international credibility on global warming is largely tied to the Senate's effort, called the draft bill a major step forward in his plans to revamp U.S. energy policy.

Subsequent to the above events, President Obama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize
for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Nobel Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of, and work for, a world without nuclear weapons. Also, "Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened", as stated in the announcement from the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

On the Senate climate bill, you can read an overview, a summary, a section by section summary, or the full bill. Also available is a description of the Pollution Reduction and Investment Mechanism of the bill. The files are available here.

An analysis of the Senate climate bill done by Jason Kowalski at 1Sky is available here.

[UPDATES: Sunday, Oct.11, 2009]
NY Times Op-Ed
Yes We Can (Pass Climate Change Legislation)
John Kerry is a Democratic senator from Massachusetts. Lindsey Graham is a Republican senator from South Carolina.

Republican senator backs climate-change effort

By Andy Sullivan | Reuters
Sunday, October 11, 2009; 3:35 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prospects for climate-change legislation in Congress improved on Sunday when a Republican senator broke ranks with his party to outline a compromise with a leading Democrat on the issue.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

U.S. funds CO2 Capture and Storage

The Obama administration is continuing research that began more than ten years ago on capturing the emissions from burning coal and storing the CO2 underground. Some environmentalists remain skeptical about the outcome, and uncertainties still exist as to the industrial feasibility, economic cost and legal aspects.

Secretary Chu Announces First Awards from $1.4 Billion for Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage Projects
Washington, DC (10/2/2009) — U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced the first round of funding from $1.4 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the selection of 12 projects that will capture carbon dioxide from industrial sources for storage or beneficial use. The first phase of these projects will include $21.6 million in Recovery Act funding and $22.5 million in private funding for a total initial investment of $44.1 million. The remaining Recovery Act funding will be awarded to the most promising projects during a competitive phase two selection process.

The successful development of advanced technologies and innovative concepts that reduce emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is a key objective of the Obama Administration’s effort to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas and contributor to global climate change.

The full report, including a list of large-scale industrial carbon capture and storage selections announced, is here.

A special issue of Science magazine
(September 25, 2009) contains background information and scientific reports on carbon capture and sequestration. The scientific articles are preceded by the Editorial below:

Editorial: Carbon Capture and Sequestration
By Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy and Nobel Laureate in Physics
Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have caused the climate to change, and a dramatic reduction of these emissions is essential to reduce the risk of future devastating effects. On the other hand, access to energy is the basis of much of the current and future prosperity of the world. Eighty percent of this energy is derived from fossil fuel. The world has abundant fossil fuel reserves, particularly coal. The United States possesses one-quarter of the known coal supply, and the United States, Russia, China, and India account for two-thirds of the reserves. Coal accounts for roughly 25% of the world energy supply and 40% of the carbon emissions. It is highly unlikely that any of these countries will turn their back on coal any time soon, and for this reason, the capture and storage of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power plants must be aggressively pursued.
Read more here...

For more information, see the Dept. of Energy Web site.

There are other sides to CCS, as indicated in the articles below:

Refitted to Bury Emissions, Plant Draws Attention
The technology is certain to devour a substantial amount of the plant’s energy output — optimists say 15 percent, and skeptics, 30 percent. Some energy experts argue that it could prove even more expensive than solar or nuclear power.

And as with any new technology, even the engineers are unsure how well it will work: will all of the carbon dioxide stay put?

Environmentalists who oppose coal mining and coal energy of any kind worry that sequestration could simply trade one problem, global warming, for another one, the pollution of water supplies. Should the carbon dioxide mix with water underground and form carbonic acid, they say, it could leach poisonous materials from rock deep underground that could then seep out. Read the full report in the NY Times.

Clean coal? Obama making $2.4 billion bet

More funding for controversial ‘carbon capture and storage’ research
Read more here.

Carbon capture and storage -- Trouble in store
Politicians are pinning their hopes for delivery from global warming on a technology that is not quite airtight. See the report in the Economist, here.

Blackout: Heinberg on dwindling coal reserves and the siren song of “clean coal”

There isn’t nearly as much coal left as most people think. “Clean coal” will run down limited reserves even faster. If humanity doesn’t begin massive, sustained investment in renewable power sources immediately, civilization could be at risk before the end of the century. And that’s without considering the impacts of climate change.

Right now the U.S. is on the verge of a momentous gamble, as reflected in the ACES bill: betting that long-term emission reductions can be achieved via carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). ACES postpones serious domestic reductions for over a decade on the assumption (hope?) that CCS technology will mature and drop in price enough to enable the indefinite use of coal. See the report at Grist.

Carbon Recycling - An alternative to carbon capture and storage
Legally, there are concerns over whether CO2 transport and long-term storage present human or ecosystem related risks and who is ultimately responsible if a leak occurs. While progress is underway in some countries, no country has yet developed the comprehensive, detailed legal and regulatory framework that is necessary to effectively govern the use of CCS.

So why expensively transport and store the CO2 underground when it could be profitably recycled post-capture? Read more here.