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Americans continue to use more renewable energy sources

July 18, 2013 1:58 pm | by Anne M. Stark, LLNL | News | Comments

Each year, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory releases energy flow charts that track the nation's consumption of energy resources. According to the most recent charts, Americans used more natural gas, solar panels and wind turbines and less coal to generate electricity in 2012.

New catalyst could replace platinum for automotive applications

July 3, 2013 9:46 am | News | Comments

The research team from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea has developed an inexpensive and scalable bio-inspired composite electrocatalyst, designed using iron phthalocyanine, a macrocyclic compound, anchored to single-walled carbon nanotubes. Under certain conditions, the new catalyst has a higher electrocatalytic activity than platinum-based catalysts, and better durability during cycling.

Bringing color to solar façades

July 2, 2013 12:21 pm | News | Comments

Designers of buildings typically have no choice but to use black or bluish-gray colored solar panels. With the help of thin-film technologies, however, researchers in Germany have now added color to solar cells. Optics specialists have changed physical thickness of the transparent conductive oxide layer, modifying its refractive index.

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Policy issues plague hydropower as wind power backup

June 27, 2013 2:11 pm | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State University | News | Comments

Theoretically, hydropower can step in when wind turbines go still, but barriers to this non-polluting resource serving as a backup are largely policy- and regulation-based, according to recent research. Hydroelectric dams are controlled by guide curves that account for drinking water and droughts. They cannot simply release water to meet some electricity demand or hold back water when electricity is in low demand.

Power for seaports may be the next job for hydrogen fuel cells

June 27, 2013 8:01 am | News | Comments

Hydrogen fuel cells are already powering mobile lighting systems, forklifts, emergency backup systems and light-duty trucks, among other applications. Now, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have found that hydrogen fuel cells may be both technically feasible and commercially attractive as a clean, quiet and efficient power source for ships at berth, replacing on-board diesel generators.

High-octane bacteria could ease pain at the pump

June 25, 2013 1:28 pm | News | Comments

By rerouting the metabolic pathway that makes fatty acids in E. coli bacteria, researchers at Harvard University have devised a new way to produce a gasoline-like biofuel. According to the scientists, who are tweaking metabolic pathways in bacteria, new lines of engineered bacteria can tailor-make key precursors of high-octane biofuels that could one day replace gasoline.

Solar plane to help ground energy use

June 19, 2013 1:01 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

When it's in flight, there's no roar of engines. It's strangely quiet. And as it crisscrosses the U.S., the spindly plane doesn't use a drop of fuel. Ernest Moniz, who heads the U.S. Department of Energy, praised the efficiency of the Solar Impulse plane at a news conference Monday in Washington, where the plane landed early Sunday morning. He said the solar-powered aircraft highlighted a cleaner energy future for the nation.

Retiring coal-fired plants in Nevada passes Senate

May 22, 2013 5:09 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

The Nevada Senate has endorsed NV Energy Inc.'s plan to retire its coal-fired plants and pave the way for the state's biggest electrical utility to transition to more renewable sources. After several revisions, SB123 was approved unanimously Wednesday and now moves to the Assembly.

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Study: Nation equipped to grow serious amounts of pond scum for fuel

May 22, 2013 9:02 am | by Tom Rickey, PNNL | News | Comments

A new analysis shows that the nation's land and water resources could likely support the growth of enough algae to produce up to 25 billion gallons of algae-based fuel a year in the United States, one-twelfth of the country's yearly needs. The findings come from an in-depth look at the water resources that would be needed to grow significant amounts of algae in large, specially built shallow ponds.

Solar industry pushes for more use in Ga.

May 21, 2013 1:25 pm | by RAY HENRY - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The solar industry in Georgia is pushing a power monopoly to expand its use of solar energy as it plans to meet the state's electricity needs over the next two decades. State utility regulators heard testimony Tuesday on the energy plans from Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power, which must submit new plans every three years.

Engineers explore compressed air for renewable energy storage

May 21, 2013 8:35 am | News | Comments

A new study has identified two unique methods for storing energy using wind power. A team from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Bonneville Power Administration has located two sites in Washington that could serve as multi-megawatt facilities. They say power for about 85,000 homes each month could be stored in porous rocks deep underground for later use.

Silicon Valley-area hub becomes factory town

May 20, 2013 7:33 am | by Martha Mendoza, AP National Writer | News | Comments

Something unique is happening in Fremont, California, a nondescript suburb of 217,000 tucked in the high-tech region between San Francisco and Silicon Valley: manufacturing. From Tesla Motors, making cutting-edge cars, to Solaria, making solar panels, manufacturers are drawn to Fremont by incentives including a five-year waiver on business taxes, an expedited regulatory process, proximity to Silicon Valley firms and a skilled labor force.

EPA methane report further divides fracking camps

April 28, 2013 5:11 pm | by Kevin Begos, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered its estimate of how much of a potent heat-trapping gas leaks during natural gas production. This shift has major implications for a debate that has divided environmentalists, which is whether the recent boom in fracking helps or hurts the fight against climate change.

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Collaboration aims to harness energy of 2,000 suns

April 23, 2013 8:54 am | News | Comments

On Monday, scientists with IBM Research, Airlight Energy, and ETH Zurich officially launched plans to develop an affordable photovoltaic system capable concentrating solar radiation 2,000 times and converting 80% of the incoming radiation into useful energy. The system is based on a low-cost, large dish-like concentrator and micro-channel cooled high performance photovoltaic chips suitable for mass-production.

IAEA: Japan nuke cleanup may take more than 40 yrs

April 22, 2013 11:59 am | by Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press | News | Comments

A U.N. nuclear watchdog team said Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant and urged its operator to improve plant stability. Damage at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is so complex that it is "impossible" to predict how long the cleanup may last.

U.S. officials concerned about Japan's plan to reprocess nuclear fuel

April 22, 2013 11:56 am | News | Comments

Some U.S. government officials and experts have strong concerns about Japan's plan to operate a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori to retract plutonium while most of the nation's reactors remain shut down, a member of the government's Japan Atomic Energy Commission said Monday. Japan possesses a large amount of plutonium but prospects for consuming it remain unclear as most of Japan's nuclear reactors are idled.

Researchers develop device to mitigate blackouts, prevent equipment damage

April 19, 2013 7:54 am | News | Comments

A local power failure in Ohio ten years ago caused a series of cascading power failures that resulted in a massive blackout. Such blackouts could be prevented in the future, thanks to a new piece of equipment developed by engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas. The device regulates or limits the amount of excess current that moves through the power grid when a surge occurs.

High temperature alloy may be perfect solder for well electronics

April 17, 2013 9:01 am | by Meg Marquardt, Materials 360 Online | News | Comments

Technology used in downhole applications—such as geothermal or oil-well monitoring—must endure punishing conditions, from very high temperatures to tremendous pressures. Finding a solder material that can perform in these harsh environments is a constant challenge. Researchers have recently repurposed a solder alloy once intended defense applications that has all the right properties for well tasks.

Better monitoring and diagnostics tackle algae biofuel pond crash problem

April 10, 2013 12:28 pm | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories is developing a suite of complementary technologies to help the emerging algae industry detect and quickly recover from algal pond crashes, an obstacle to large-scale algae cultivation for future biofuels. The research draws upon Sandia's longstanding expertise in microfluidics technology, its strong bioscience research program and significant internal investments.

GE to acquire Lufkin Industries

April 9, 2013 3:44 am | News | Comments

GE and Lufkin Industries Inc. announced this week a joint agreement whereby GE will acquire Lufkin Industries Inc., a leading provider of artificial lift technologies for the oil and gas industry and a manufacturer of industrial gears, for approximately $3.3 billion. The move accelerates GE’s growth in artificial lift with solutions for a wider variety of well types.

Study: Microalgae produce more oil faster for energy, food, or products

April 8, 2013 4:09 am | News | Comments

Scientists this week described technology that accelerates microalgae’s ability to produce many different types of renewable oils for fuels, chemicals, foods and personal-care products within days using standard industrial fermentation. On highlight was Solazyme, which has achieved more than 80% oil  within each individual cell of microalgae at the commercial scale.

A longer life for lithium-sulfur batteries

April 4, 2013 4:39 pm | News | Comments

Electric cars are still an iffy proposition for most consumers because of the limited range offered by lithium-ion battery. A promising avenue of research is the lithium-sulfur battery, which is significantly more powerful and less expensive than the better-known lithium-ion battery. Although their short lifespan has made them unsuitable before now, this may be about to change if development work in Germany is successful.

Fully renewable electricity could be competitive

April 3, 2013 9:21 am | News | Comments

A carbon price of between $50 and $100 per ton of carbon dioxide would make coal-fired and gas-fired power less economical than renewable electricity, a University of New South Wales study shows. The study shows that fossil-fueled power stations in Australia’s National Electricity Market could be phased out and replaced economically and reliably with commercially available renewable energy technologies by increasing the carbon price to this “medium” level.

Global solar photovoltaic industry is likely now a net energy producer

April 3, 2013 8:12 am | News | Comments

The construction of the photovoltaic power industry since 2000 has required an enormous amount of energy, mostly from fossil fuels. The good news is that the clean electricity from all the installed solar panels has likely just surpassed the energy going into the industry's continued growth, Stanford University researchers find.

Milestone for new carbon capture and clean coal technology

March 20, 2013 9:52 am | News | Comments

An innovative new process that releases the energy in coal without burning—while capturing carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas—has passed a milestone on the route to possible commercial use, scientists are reporting. Their study in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels describes results of a successful 200-hour test on a sub-pilot scale version of the technology using two inexpensive but highly polluting forms of coal.

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