Volume 3, Issue 8
April 10, 2017 – April 16, 2017
Jason Mulderrig | Will Atkinson | Rohit Dilip | Anushka Dasgupta

States Challenge Trump Over Clean Power Plan
April 6, 2017 | Scientific American | Richard Valdmanis
Last Wednesday, a group of 17 states filed a legal challenge to Trump’s rolling back of regulations on greenhouse gas emissions (see last week’s Power Surge for more). Led by New York, the states cite a legal duty to limit the gases that warm our planet. The fate of the Clean Power Plan, the major regulation in question, has been uncertain ever since 26 Republican-led states challenged it, and years of further litigation could be in store. -WA

Solar Energy:
Thermionic Energy Conversion Based on Graphene van der Waals Heterostructures
April 7, 2017 | Nature Scientific Reports| Liang et al.
Low grade heat refers to low and mid temperature heat that cannot be efficiently converted into electricity through conventional means. Solar, geothermal, and industrial power plants all have substantial low grade waste heat, making the conversion of low grade heat into usable electricity a promising area of research.  This paper proposes and designs a device to directly convert low grade waste heat into energy through a van der Waals heterostructure. Their final device collects wasted heat (400 K) at approximately 7% efficiency. -RD

When Solar Panels Became Job Killers
April 8, 2017 | The New York Times | Keith Bradsher
In the past decade, the Chinese government has influenced state-owned banks to provide favorable loans to solar panel manufacturing companies and encouraged local governments to subsidize such companies with cheap land. As a result, Chinese solar panel companies have risen to the forefront of the solar panel industry, helped increase the production capacity of the industry, and lowered the worldwide prices of solar panels. However, this past summer, the Chinese government publicly suggested that it would cut the subsidies. Investors stopped financing solar companies, which forced the solar companies to cut their prices, and drew major business away from US competitors. Now, US solar companies are left with reduced revenue and the realization that China now controls the solar show. -JPM

Opinion: Quantum solutions for a sustainable energy future
April 5, 2017 | Nature Reviews Chemistry | Johannes Dieterich & Emily Carter
This review paper discusses the need for more sustainable energy solutions, and explains how expanding tools that utilize quantum mechanical phenomena can be applied towards problems in energy. The authors discuss quantum chemistry, and how accurate simulations that reflect electron behavior are crucial to understand properties of materials that are either prohibitively expensive or physically impossible to probe experimentally. This paper outlines how quantum mechanics has been used as a tool in nuclear fusion and solar energy research, and provides some discussion of the future applications of quantum simulations. -RD

With More Bang for the Buck, Renewables Providing Most New Power
April 6, 2017 | Bloomberg | Mark Chediak
In 2016, renewable energy provided 55% of new electricity capacity added worldwide, with total investment double the amount given to fossil-fuel generators. In addition, investment in renewable energy dropped by 23%, which is a result of reduced wind and solar energy unit costs and equipment costs that occurred between 2015 and 2016. Renewable energy sources produced 11.3% of global electricity in 2016, which is nearly double the proportion in 2010. -JPM

Fossil Fuels:
Why some coal companies want Trump to stay in Paris climate deal
March 30, 2017 | Politico | Andrew Restuccia
While many coal companies are against the U.S. remaining in the Paris Accord, fearing that it will lead to its phasing out, others are hopeful that it could lead to more funding for technologies which reduce harmful emissions from coal. Such tacit support from an industry that was previously unanimously against the Accord – especially from companies which are responsible for 42 percent of the coal mining conducted in the U.S. – is a strong indicator that the U.S. could stay in the agreement. Doing so will help maintain international relationships and give the U.S. better access to foreign fossil fuel markets. -AD