Power Surge 4.12

Power Surge 4.12

Volume 4, Issue 12
December 10, 2017 – December 16, 2017
Jason Mulderrig '18 | Will Atkinson '18 | Anushka Dasgupta '19 | Joe Abbate '18 | Amy Amatya '21


There are two primary types of biofuels. The first is ethanol, which is made from high-carbohydrate plants like corn. Ethanol is usually mixed with regular gas to decrease CO emissions and add a renewable component to the fossil fuel base. A primary research area is developing techniques to more efficiently use cellulose and the more fibrous parts that comprise most of the plant mass. The second is biodiesel, which in addition to being an additive to fossil fuels can also be used as a standalone fuel source. One of the primary sources of biodiesel is cooking grease that restaurants would otherwise just throw out, although research is being done on biomass-production via microscopic algae. While these technologies sound “green” in the most literal sense of the phrase, however, the counterarguments are that increasing plant-fuel production will decrease food production and that solar cells are about 100 times as efficient per square meter of land use anyway. Nonetheless, respond biofuel proponents, even in a future with electric cars we will still require explosive fuel for airplanes. To fill that need, there are non-food-arable lands, cooking grease, and unused plant parts around the world which would otherwise go to waste. -JAA

There are two primary types of biofuels. The first is ethanol, which is made from high-carbohydrate plants like corn. Ethanol is usually mixed with regular gas to decrease CO emissions and add a renewable component to the fossil fuel base. A primary research area is developing techniques to more efficiently use cellulose and the more fibrous parts that comprise most of the plant mass. The second is biodiesel, which in addition to being an additive to fossil fuels can also be used as a standalone fuel source. One of the primary sources of biodiesel is cooking grease that restaurants would otherwise just throw out, although research is being done on biomass-production via microscopic algae. While these technologies sound “green” in the most literal sense of the phrase, however, the counterarguments are that increasing plant-fuel production will decrease food production and that solar cells are about 100 times as efficient per square meter of land use anyway. Nonetheless, respond biofuel proponents, even in a future with electric cars we will still require explosive fuel for airplanes. To fill that need, there are non-food-arable lands, cooking grease, and unused plant parts around the world which would otherwise go to waste. -JAA

Secretary of Energy Announces 30-Million Investment in Advanced Nuclear Technology December 7, 2017 | Energy.gov The Department of Energy is soliciting proposals for research on what U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry calls a “clean, resilient source of electricity.” The $30 million dollar promise is being made available through Fiscal Year awards and a five-year application period for the development of innovative reactor designs with the hopes of advancing nuclear energy. Potential consequences to new models of the extremely divisive energy source certainly need to be explored research before implementation, given the spew of small-town reactors prematurely closing this past year. -AA

Secretary of Energy Announces 30-Million Investment in Advanced Nuclear Technology
December 7, 2017 | Energy.gov
The Department of Energy is soliciting proposals for research on what U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry calls a “clean, resilient source of electricity.” The $30 million dollar promise is being made available through Fiscal Year awards and a five-year application period for the development of innovative reactor designs with the hopes of advancing nuclear energy. Potential consequences to new models of the extremely divisive energy source certainly need to be explored research before implementation, given the spew of small-town reactors prematurely closing this past year. -AA

Blockchain May Bring Transparency to Renewable Energy December 4, 2017 | Clean Energy Finance Forum | Chijioke Onyekwelu This article interviews the CEO of Wepower - a company that uses blockchain technology to facilitate transparent energy transactions. Wepower implements two types of blockchain tokens: (1) initial coin offering tokens, where customers buy these tokens as a means to raise money for energy projects and purchase the right to the energy from the project later, and (2) platform tokens, which are released by operational energy projects themselves, display crucial data about the energy, and the energy is provided to the purchaser quickly with a receipt. The company is launching in Europe with hopes to jump in the United States in the future. -JPM

Blockchain May Bring Transparency to Renewable Energy
December 4, 2017 | Clean Energy Finance Forum | Chijioke Onyekwelu
This article interviews the CEO of Wepower - a company that uses blockchain technology to facilitate transparent energy transactions. Wepower implements two types of blockchain tokens: (1) initial coin offering tokens, where customers buy these tokens as a means to raise money for energy projects and purchase the right to the energy from the project later, and (2) platform tokens, which are released by operational energy projects themselves, display crucial data about the energy, and the energy is provided to the purchaser quickly with a receipt. The company is launching in Europe with hopes to jump in the United States in the future. -JPM

G.E. Cuts Jobs at It Navigates a Shifting Energy Market December 7, 2017 | The New York Times | Tiffany Hsu and Clifford Kraus This week, General Electric announced that it would be cutting almost 20% of the workforce in its power division; last month, its industry rival, Siemens, made a similar announcement. In the last decade, GE has been shaken by price slumps in oil and gas and poorly executed mergers. Now, the company is making adjustments to account for the growing long-term demand for renewable energy. Executives say that streamlining the company will be painful but necessary if it is to become competitive in the changing energy landscape. -AD

G.E. Cuts Jobs at It Navigates a Shifting Energy Market
December 7, 2017 | The New York Times | Tiffany Hsu and Clifford Kraus
This week, General Electric announced that it would be cutting almost 20% of the workforce in its power division; last month, its industry rival, Siemens, made a similar announcement. In the last decade, GE has been shaken by price slumps in oil and gas and poorly executed mergers. Now, the company is making adjustments to account for the growing long-term demand for renewable energy. Executives say that streamlining the company will be painful but necessary if it is to become competitive in the changing energy landscape. -AD

Shape-Shifting Metals Could Generate Electricity from Wasted Heat December 4, 2017 | Scientific American | Nick Stockton A material called shape memory alloy, which changes its form based on temperature, could be used to generate electricity from alternating hot and cold water. When the temperature changes, the alloy nitinol expands and contracts, yielding energy that can be harnessed with pistons and a generator. The company Exergyn is still developing a prototype, hoping to overcome durability concerns. However, since a third of the energy used by U.S. industry is lost as heat, this technology could find a novel use for the wasted hot water. -WA

Shape-Shifting Metals Could Generate Electricity from Wasted Heat
December 4, 2017 | Scientific American | Nick Stockton
A material called shape memory alloy, which changes its form based on temperature, could be used to generate electricity from alternating hot and cold water. When the temperature changes, the alloy nitinol expands and contracts, yielding energy that can be harnessed with pistons and a generator. The company Exergyn is still developing a prototype, hoping to overcome durability concerns. However, since a third of the energy used by U.S. industry is lost as heat, this technology could find a novel use for the wasted hot water. -WA

Power Surge 4.11

Power Surge 4.11

Volume 4, Issue 11
December 3, 2017 – December 9, 2017
Jason Mulderrig '18 | Will Atkinson '18 | Anushka Dasgupta '19 | Joe Abbate '18 | Amy Amatya '21


The idea of a microgrid is to allow a community to operate autonomously from the primary grid thanks to self-production (e.g. solar panels and diesel generators) technologies. This is important during emergencies when downed power lines halt electricity flow through large networks. During non-emergency times, the electricity generated is simply fed back to the grid, and the homeowners receive compensation for their electricity. Other benefits of microgrids include improved efficiency (fewer losses due to energy transfer to faraway places) and lowering of energy consumption (people psychologically feel like they have more skin in the game). Microgrids have been implemented already by some college campuses and military bases, even helping our own Princeton University stay partially online during Hurricane Sandy via our cogeneration plant. Such a microgrid was also implemented in Brooklyn by LO3 in 2016 with the added buzzword of "blockchain technology" for facilitating inter-community exchange. -JAA

The idea of a microgrid is to allow a community to operate autonomously from the primary grid thanks to self-production (e.g. solar panels and diesel generators) technologies. This is important during emergencies when downed power lines halt electricity flow through large networks. During non-emergency times, the electricity generated is simply fed back to the grid, and the homeowners receive compensation for their electricity. Other benefits of microgrids include improved efficiency (fewer losses due to energy transfer to faraway places) and lowering of energy consumption (people psychologically feel like they have more skin in the game). Microgrids have been implemented already by some college campuses and military bases, even helping our own Princeton University stay partially online during Hurricane Sandy via our cogeneration plant. Such a microgrid was also implemented in Brooklyn by LO3 in 2016 with the added buzzword of "blockchain technology" for facilitating inter-community exchange. -JAA

How Much CO2 Will the World Need to Remove from the Air? November 30, 2017 | ClimateWire/Scientific American | Chelsea Harvey At this point, it will be challenging to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2oC without “negative emissions” technologies, which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to cool the planet. However, the proposed technologies, such as direct air capture or bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), have yet to be scaled. Without more concrete plans or rules, we may be using negative emissions as a crutch, giving policymakers the false hope that they can pursue less ambitious CO2 emissions cuts today. -WA

How Much CO2 Will the World Need to Remove from the Air?
November 30, 2017 | ClimateWire/Scientific American | Chelsea Harvey
At this point, it will be challenging to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2oC without “negative emissions” technologies, which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to cool the planet. However, the proposed technologies, such as direct air capture or bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), have yet to be scaled. Without more concrete plans or rules, we may be using negative emissions as a crutch, giving policymakers the false hope that they can pursue less ambitious CO2 emissions cuts today. -WA

New 800-Mile Midwestern Power Line Expands U.S. Wind Market November 30, 2017 | Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis The CapX2020 transmission project, an 800 mile long electrical interconnection line intended to bring wind energy from rural areas to urban areas in the Midwest, completed in late September of this year. According to Xcel Energy, this transmission project has catalyzed over 3,600 MW of proposed wind and solar energy projects in the region, extending from South Dakota to Minnesota. This project was also the first so-called “multi-value projects” to receive approval from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the electricity operator that serves the Midwest, the South, and Manitoba, Canada. -JPM

New 800-Mile Midwestern Power Line Expands U.S. Wind Market
November 30, 2017 | Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
The CapX2020 transmission project, an 800 mile long electrical interconnection line intended to bring wind energy from rural areas to urban areas in the Midwest, completed in late September of this year. According to Xcel Energy, this transmission project has catalyzed over 3,600 MW of proposed wind and solar energy projects in the region, extending from South Dakota to Minnesota. This project was also the first so-called “multi-value projects” to receive approval from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the electricity operator that serves the Midwest, the South, and Manitoba, Canada. -JPM

There’s Now a Vessel That Produces Zero Pollution November 29, 2017 | Bloomberg Technology | Anna Hirtenstein Cie. Maritime Belge SA has potentially revolutionized the shipping industry by revealing the first commercial ship that runs on compressed hydrogen and produces zero pollution. The trillion-dollar industry produces 3% of the world’s emissions, burning heavy fuel oil (one of the dirtiest and cheapest energies), but wasn’t included in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. With the falling cost of renewables, the next step is to use hydrogen in a cargo ship’s auxiliary engines to reduce the ship’s emissions by 10%, and increase shipping regulations as the International Maritime Organization is attempting to do by 2020. -AA One of the biggest US oil fields turns to an unexpected power source: solar December 3, 2017 | The Chicago Tribune | Chris Mooney The Belridge oil field in Southern California has been in active use for over a century, and its operators began employing the technique of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) on the reservoir in the sixties. EOR involves steam injection into an oil field to force out oil, but lacks the rock fracturing aspect of fracking. In the past, steam generation for Belridge was powered by natural gas. Now, its operator has unfurled a plan for the construction of an 850-megawatt solar thermal array (California’s largest) to power the process. Executives cited California’s recent decision to extend to its cap-and-trade policy as vital to making this possible. Although big oil and big solar may seem like strange bedfellows, this sort of collaboration helps to reduce emissions from fossil fuel infrastructure and will become increasingly common. -AD

There’s Now a Vessel That Produces Zero Pollution
November 29, 2017 | Bloomberg Technology | Anna Hirtenstein
Cie. Maritime Belge SA has potentially revolutionized the shipping industry by revealing the first commercial ship that runs on compressed hydrogen and produces zero pollution. The trillion-dollar industry produces 3% of the world’s emissions, burning heavy fuel oil (one of the dirtiest and cheapest energies), but wasn’t included in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. With the falling cost of renewables, the next step is to use hydrogen in a cargo ship’s auxiliary engines to reduce the ship’s emissions by 10%, and increase shipping regulations as the International Maritime Organization is attempting to do by 2020. -AA

One of the biggest US oil fields turns to an unexpected power source: solar
December 3, 2017 | The Chicago Tribune | Chris Mooney
The Belridge oil field in Southern California has been in active use for over a century, and its operators began employing the technique of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) on the reservoir in the sixties. EOR involves steam injection into an oil field to force out oil, but lacks the rock fracturing aspect of fracking. In the past, steam generation for Belridge was powered by natural gas. Now, its operator has unfurled a plan for the construction of an 850-megawatt solar thermal array (California’s largest) to power the process. Executives cited California’s recent decision to extend to its cap-and-trade policy as vital to making this possible. Although big oil and big solar may seem like strange bedfellows, this sort of collaboration helps to reduce emissions from fossil fuel infrastructure and will become increasingly common. -AD