Volume 4, Issue 1
September 17, 2017 – September 23, 2017
Jason Mulderrig '18 | Will Atkinson '18 | Anushka Dasgupta '19

Making Sense of Trump’s Surprising Investment in Solar
September 14, 2017 | MIT Technology Review | James Temple
On Tuesday, the Department of Energy announced that it will divert and invest $62 million from photovoltaic solar cell research to concentrated solar power research. Some have seen this move as a dig by the Trump administration against photovoltaic solar cell research, which seems counterintuitive considering the fact that photovoltaics have been the renewable energy technology that has threatened fossil fuel. However, concentrated solar power is seen as a renewable energy technology that can improve grid stability over the long term because the technology can store energy as heat during operation, which means that the technology can produce electricity even when the sun is not out. It is this trait of concentrated solar power that led to this diversion of research funds in the Department of Energy. -JPM

How Trump Can Harness the U.S. Energy Boom
September 15, 2017 | New York Times | Meghan O’Sullivan
For the last five years, the U.S. has been the largest producer of oil and gas, combined, in the world. As President Trump continues to loosen regulations on drilling, the U.S. is enjoying an era of decreased dependence on foreign energy imports. This opinion piece puts aside the severe environmental implications of increased oil and gas production, rather examining how the President can best use it not only to stabilize markets at home, but also to weaken American competitors and forge strong alliances with nations such as China. -AD

Wind Energy:n
Offshore wind power cheaper than new nuclear
September 11, 2017 | BBC | Roger Harrabin
In the UK, the #1 producer of offshore wind power, the technology has recently become cheaper than the cost of a new nuclear or gas plant. Because offshore wind is variable and only produced electricity for 36% of the time last year, other technologies are still needed. Managing surplus wind or solar energy also carries a cost. But wind’s cost-competitiveness in the UK bodes well for other regions looking to develop offshore wind, such as the eastern US. -WA

GE Unveils a Bigger, Better Onshore Turbine Aimed at European Customers
September 13, 2017 | GreenTechMedia | Emma Foehringer Merchant
This past Tuesday, GE unveiled at 4.8 megawatt wind turbine to the market. This turbine, with a rotor diameter of 158 meters, is one of the largest turbines on the market. This move is widely seen to bolster GM’s share of onshore wind installations in Europe, where larger turbines that can produce more electricity at a lower levelized cost of energy are in high demand. The turbine is expected to hit the market by the end of 2019. -JPM

Never Mind the iPhone X, Battery Life Could Soon Take a Great Leap Forward
September 13, 2017  | Scientific American | Alexander Brownlee and Jerry Swan
Considering that extended battery life is a major selling point for any mobile device on the market, it’s seen somewhat modest advances in the last ten years. In the past, manufacturers have focused on increasing the energy density of their battery materials and on reducing the energy consumption of hardware rather than software. Not only is it labor-intensive and impractical to hand-tune a phone’s entire software package, assessing which pieces of code sap the most energy is also difficult. Recently, however, advances in machine learning have enabled researchers to use a search-based approach to make software more efficient (a stunning 40% to 70% reduction in energy use for some tasks). In the future, this technology could add not just hours, but days, to battery life. -AD

The entrepreneurs turning carbon dioxide into fuels
September 14, 2017 | The Guardian | Mark Harris
While most efforts to lower CO2 concentrations have focused on reducing emissions, some companies aim to use the carbon dioxide. Climeworks, a Swiss start-up, plans to extract around 900 tonnes of CO2 per year with the world’s first commercial direct air capture plant. After carbon dioxide is extracted, it is used to increase the yield of a greenhouse by up to 20%. Other companies are developing “artificial leaves” and other mechanisms to boost photosynthesis and CO2 uptake. The next obstacle: reducing the often high costs of these technologies. -WA