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Fortune 500 Firms Embrace Clean Energy

AlamosaSolar

With over 500 dual-axis, pedestal mounted tracker assemblies, each producing 60 kW, the Alamosa Solar Generating Project is the largest high-concentrating solar photovoltaic power generation system in the world, 2014, Alamosa, Colorado (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, May 2, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – A growing number of Fortune 500 companies are taking ambitious steps to slash their greenhouse gas emissions, buy more renewable energy and shrink their energy bills through energy efficiency, finds a new report from World Wildlife Fund, Ceres , Calvert Research and Management  and CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Findings from the new report, “Power Forward 3.0: How the largest U.S. companies are capturing business value while addressing climate change,” are based on 2016 company disclosures to CDP, which holds the world’s largest collection of self-reported corporate environmental data, and other public sources.

“CDP and the investors we work with, representing over US$100 trillion in assets, engage thousands of the world’s largest companies to measure and manage climate-related risks” said Lance Pierce, president of CDP North America.

“Voluntary corporate disclosure highlights the compelling business case for corporate clean energy procurement and clearly demonstrates the transition underway in the energy markets,” said Pierce. “Companies in turn have benefited, identifying billions of dollars in savings and new opportunities through their disclosures to CDP.”

The numbers tell the story.

Sixty-three percent of the largest companies, the Fortune 100, have set at least one clean energy target.

Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies, 48 percent, have set at least one climate or clean energy target, up five percent from an earlier 2014 report.

A greenhouse gas reduction goal is the most common target, set by 211 companies.

Roughly 80,000 emission-reducing projects by the 190 Fortune 500 companies reporting data showed nearly $3.7 billion in savings in 2016 alone.

Many large companies are setting 100 percent renewable energy goals and science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets that align with the global goal of limiting global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius set by the Paris Climate Agreement.

More than 20 Fortune 500 companies such as industry giants Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Google and Facebook, have committed to powering all corporate operations with 100 percent renewable energy, compared to only a few mega-companies just a few years ago.

Google announced in December that renewable energy will power 100 percent of its global operations in 2017, a year ahead of schedule. Nearly all of this renewable energy will come from wind power.

“American businesses are leading the transition to a clean economy because it’s smart business and it’s what their customers want,” said Marty Spitzer, World Wildlife Fund’s senior director of climate and renewable energy. “Clean energy is fueling economic opportunity from coast to coast without regard for party line. Washington policies may slow this boom, but these companies are making it very clear that a transition to a low-carbon economy is inevitable.”

American corporate giants are taking these steps despite the climate denial policies of President Donald Trump and his cabinet. Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, for which President Barack Obama was a leading voice. Adopted by consensus of 195 world governments in December 2015, the pact has been ratified by 144 countries and took effect on November 4, 2016.

Trump has appointed climate change deniers Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. Pruitt last week ordered removal of all Obama-era climate change data from the EPA website, calling it “outdated.”

On March 28, Trump signed an executive order to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have moved the nation away from burning coal and toward cleaner energy sources such as natural gas and renewables.

More than 200,000 people marched in the streets of Washington, DC on Saturday in protest of these moves and tens of thousands more took part in climate marches across the country.

But the large corporations are not embracing renewables and energy efficiency in response to Trump policies or to public condemnation of them. Instead, they are doing so to benefit their bottom lines.

The report highlights the financial benefits companies are receiving from their clean energy investments. The emission reductions from these efforts are equivalent to taking 45 coal-fired power plants offline every year.

The growth in the number and ambition of renewable energy commitments is mainly the result of recent sharp declines in renewable energy costs, which saves companies money, and of price certainty that comes with renewable energy, the report finds.

Praxair, IBM and Microsoft are among the companies saving tens of millions of dollars annually through their energy efficiency efforts.

“We are encouraged to see significant improvement in both the number of Fortune 500 companies setting climate and clean energy goals and the ambition of those goals – in particular commitments to setting science-based and 100 percent renewable energy targets,” said Anne Kelly, senior director of policy and the BICEP network at Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts.

“But in order to meet our national and global emissions goals, more companies will need to join the champions highlighted in this report, both in setting goals and in becoming vocal advocates for continued federal and state policies in support of climate and clean energy progress,” said Kelly.

Ten percent (53) of companies have set renewable energy targets, and almost half of those (23) have committed to power 100 percent of their operations with renewable energy – among those, Wal-Mart, General Motors, Bank of America, Google, Apple and Facebook.

“Corporate commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy is an accelerating trend that illustrates broader recognition within the business community of the importance of clean energy and the financial benefits it can yield,” said Stu Dalheim, vice president of corporate shareholder engagement for Calvert.

“Many of the largest companies in the U.S. are achieving significant cost savings through clean energy programs and mitigating longer-term risks associated with energy price volatility,” he said.

Some of the strongest efforts are among Fortune 100 companies, with 63 percent adopting or retaining goals.

The report also shows strong improvement among the smallest 100 companies in the Fortune 500, with 44 percent setting goals in one or more categories, up 19 percentage points from the same group’s 2014 report, “Power Forward 2.0: How American Companies Are Setting Clean Energy Targets and Capturing Greater Business Value.

The report shows a spread in target setting among different sectors, with Consumer Staples (72%), Materials (66%), and Utilities (65%) sectors leading in setting clean energy goals and the Energy sector (11%), including oil & gas companies, lagging.

The report includes three key recommendations for companies, policymakers and investors to continue to scale clean energy efforts.

  •  Companies should continue to set, implement and communicate clean energy targets, while supporting local, state and national policies that make it easier to achieve their climate and energy commitments.
  •  Federal and state policymakers should establish clear, long-term low-carbon polices that will help companies meet their clean energy targets while helping the United States meet its carbon-reducing commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Investors should consider allocating their investments to companies well-positioned for the low-carbon economy. Investors should continue to file shareholder resolutions and engage in dialogues with companies to encourage them to set climate and energy efficiency targets and position themselves for a low-carbon future.

Featured image : Wind turbines at the National Renewable Energy Lab facility in Golden, Colorado. (Photo courtesy NREL) Public domain

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Transforming Africa

TanzaniaChildren

Children in Tanzania wait for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Photo by Derek Hansen) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 By Sunny Lewis

BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Following a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors on Sunday in Baden Baden, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced a record US$57 billion in financing for Sub-Saharan African countries over the next three years.

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President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim of the United States (Photo by Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Kim said the fresh infusion of funds will scale up investments and de-risk private sector participation for accelerated growth and development across Sub-Saharan Africa .

This represents an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region,” he said.

With this commitment,” he said, “we will work with our clients to substantially expand programs in education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate, infrastructure, and institutional reform.

Kim then left to visit Rwanda in the central Sub-Saharan region and Tanzania in the east to emphasize the Bank Group’s support for the entire region.

With a population of just over one billion people, Sub-Saharan Africa is defined as those African countries situated south of the Sahara Desert.

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remains strong,” the World Bank stated three years ago, in March 2014. “Almost a third of countries in the region are growing at six percent.

But income inequality is extreme in the Sub-Saharan region. Some of these countries, such as Nigeria and South Africa, are rich in oil or mineral wealth, but many others are desperately poor.

First Priorities: Food and Water

Earlier this month, the World Bank president issued a warning on the “devastating levels of food insecurity” in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen. “Famine is a stain on our collective conscience,” Kim said. “Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively.

We at the World Bank Group stand in solidarity with the people now threatened by famine,” Kim said March 8. “We are mobilizing an immediate response for Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Our first priority is to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water.

Much of the newly announced financing, $45 billion, will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

In December, development partners agreed to a record $75 billion for IDA, based on an innovative move to blend donor contributions to IDA with World Bank Group internal resources, and with funds raised through capital markets.

The IDA financing for Africa is targeted to addressing roadblocks that prevent the region from reaching its potential. The scaled-up IDA financing will build on a portfolio of 448 ongoing projects across the continent.

A $1.6 billion financing package is being developed to tackle the impending threat of famine in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Expected IDA outcomes include essential health and nutrition services for up to 400 million people, access to improved water sources for up to 45 million, and 5 GW of renewable energy generating capacity.

Next: Building Resilience

In support of countries’ own development priorities, the scaled-up investments will focus on tackling conflict, fragility, and violence; building resilience to crises including forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics; and reducing gender inequality.

The new financing for Sub-Saharan Africa will include an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the World Bank Group.

IFC will deepen its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states and increase climate-related investments.

In addition, there will be $4 billion in financing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), its non-concessional public sector arm.

IBRD priorities will include health, education, and infrastructure projects such as expanding water distribution and access to power.

Efforts will also promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation.

This financing will help African countries continue to grow, create opportunities for their citizens, and build resilience to shocks and crises,” Kim said.

While much of the estimated $45 billion in IDA financing will be dedicated to country-specific programs, Kim says significant amounts will be available through special “windows” to finance regional initiatives and transformative projects, support refugees and their host communities, and help countries in the aftermath of crises.

This will be complemented by a newly established Private Sector Window, especially important in Africa, where many sound investments go untapped due to lack of capital and perceived risks.

The Private Sector Window will supplement existing instruments to spur sound investments through de-risking, blended finance, and local currency lending.

The priorities for private sector investment will include infrastructure, financial markets, and agribusiness.

Powering Africa, Both On and Off the Grid

In the western sub-Saharan African country of Côte d’Ivoire last week, former UN Secretary-General

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan issued a new report, “Lights Power Action: Electrifying Africa” that calls for investment in quickly solving Africa’s energy crisis.

Speaking March 13 at African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan, Annan said, “Achieving universal access to modern energy is critical to Africa’s transformation.”

Nearly two-thirds of Africans – 620 million people – still do not have access to ‘affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern electricity,‘” said Annan, the energy goal that is central to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

The core message of “Lights Power Action” emphasizes that grid-connected mega projects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission, but they are slow and expensive.

Through the report, Annan is urging governments to increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install.

What we are advocating is for African governments to harness every available option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible, so that everyone is included and no one is left behind” said Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel that wrote the report.

Of the 315 million people who will gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 percent will be connected to national grids. Most will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems.

Annan told the audience in Abidjan, “As well as leading the way in promoting wider use of off-grid and mini-grid technology, African governments must continue to work hard to transform national energy grids that are often unreliable and financially fragile.

Many energy utilities are mismanaged and inefficient. A lack of accountability and transparency in their governance also nurtures corruption,” he warned.

Electricity theft at staggering scale is often the result of this malpractice; rolling black-outs are the result of mismanagement,” said Annan. “All continue to feed a deep sense of frustration among citizens.”

It’s not just energy mismanagement, Annan explained. “Poor energy governance reflects the wider governance deficit that threatens to derail development efforts in a number of countries.

Governments need to intensify their efforts to put in place regulatory environments that give the energy sector incentives to deliver on its transformative potential,” he said.

Africa’s leadership, in both public and private sectors, need to “champion the energy for all agenda,” Annan urged.

The private sector, African and non-African,” said the former secretary-general, “should be encouraged to enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, deepen linkages throughout the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.

He is not saying countries should immediately stop using fossil fuels and switch to renewables. The cost of transitioning to renewables may be prohibitively high in the short term, especially for countries that use their sizable endowments of coal and other fossil fuels to generate energy.

The report advocates that African governments harness every available energy option, so that no one is left behind. Said Annan, “Each country needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.

As widespread adoption of mobile phone technology has already helped Africa leapfrog over conventional technology and improve financial and social inclusion, Annan predicts that “innovation will bring millions of Africans into the energy loop,” setting the stage for improved quality of life.

The ultimate goal should be to interlink Africa’s numerous and fragmented power initiatives to create a single pan-African power grid,” he said in Abidjan.

We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s energy deficit,” declared Annan. “Now we must focus on implementation. The time for excuses is over. It’s time for action.


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Innovative Nuclear Reactors Attract Investors

By Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, July 21, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Private investors such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma are among many from around the world who are backing new types of nuclear reactors that will be safer and more efficient than those operating today.

They have formed the Breakthough Energy Coalition, an influential group of investors, committed to investing in technologies that can help solve the urgent energy and climate challenges facing the planet.

The University of California (UC) is the sole institutional investor among the 28 coalition members from 10 countries.

UC’s Office of the Chief Investment Officer has committed $1 billion of its investment capital for early-stage and scale-up investments in clean energy innovation over the next five years, as well as an additional $250 million to fund innovative, early-stage ideas emerging from the university.

The University of California, with its 10 campuses and three national energy labs, is home to some of the best climate scientists in the world and as a public research institution we take the imperative to solve global climate change very seriously,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “With access to the private capital represented by investors in the Breakthrough Energy Coalition we can more effectively integrate our public research pipeline to deliver new technology and insights that will revolutionize the way the world thinks about and uses energy.”

We can’t ask for a better partner than the University of California Office of the President and the Office of the Chief Investment Officer to help accomplish the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s ambitious goal,” Gates said. “The UC system – with its world leading campuses and labs – produces the kinds of groundbreaking technologies that will help define a global energy future that is cheaper, more reliable and does not contribute to climate change.”

High costs, together with fears about safety and waste disposal, have stalled construction of new nuclear plants, although construction continues in some countries. China is building 20 new reactors, South Korea is building four; even Japan is restarting some of the nuclear plants shut down after the 2011 Fukushima meltdown disaster and is building new reactors.

But the excitement in the nuclear industry is being generated by emerging new technologies, such as a traveling wave reactor, a new class of nuclear reactor that utilizes nuclear waste to generate electricity.

Gates is founder and chairman of TerraPower, a company based in Bellevue, Washington that designed the traveling wave reactor.

Conventional reactors capture only about one percent of the energy potential of their fuel. The traveling wave reactor is “a near-term deployable, truly sustainable, globally scalable energy solution,” TerraPower says on its website.

TravelingWaveReactor

TerraPower’s new traveling wave reactor is based on an original design by Saveli Feinberg in 1958. (Image by TerraPower. Posted for media use)

Unlike the existing fleet of nuclear reactors, the traveling wave reactor (TWR) burns fuel made from depleted uranium, currently a waste byproduct of the enrichment process. The TWR’s unique design gradually converts this material through a nuclear reaction without removing the fuel from the reactor’s core. The TWR can sustain this process indefinitely, generating heat and producing electricity.

The TWR offers a 50-fold gain in fuel efficiency, eliminates the need for reprocessing and reduces and potentially eliminates the long-term need for enrichment plants. This reduces nuclear proliferation concerns and lowers the cost of the nuclear energy process.

As the TWR operates, it converts depleted uranium to usable fuel. As a result, says TerraPower, “this inexpensive but energy-rich fuel source could provide a global electricity supply that is, for all practical purposes, inexhaustible.”

TerraPower aims to achieve startup of a 600 megawatt-electric prototype of the TWR in the mid-2020s, followed by global commercial deployment.

Transatomic Power, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff, is developing a molten-salt nuclear reactor that co-founders Mark Massie and Leslie Dewan, PhD candidates at MIT, estimate will cut the overall cost of a nuclear power plant in half.

Highly resistant to meltdowns, molten-salt reactors were demonstrated in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Lab, where one test reactor ran for six years, but the technology has not been used commercially.

The new molten salt reactor design, which now exists only on paper, would produce 20 times as much power for its size as the Oak Ridge technology.

Transatomic has modified the original molten-salt design to allow it to run on nuclear waste.

And it’s safer than today’s water-cooled nuclear power plants. Even after a conventional reactor is shut down, it must be continuously cooled by pumping in water. The inability to do that is what caused the hydrogen explosions, radiation releases and meltdowns at Fukushima.

Using molten salt as the coolant solves some of these problems. The salt, which is mixed in with the fuel, has a boiling point much higher than the temperature of the fuel, giving the reactor a built-in thermostat. If it starts to heat up, the salt expands, spreading out the fuel, slowing the reactions and allowing the mixture to cool.

In the event of a power outage, a stopper at the bottom of the reactor melts and the fuel and salt flow into a holding tank, where the fuel spreads out enough for the reactions to stop. The salt then cools and solidifies, encapsulating the radioactive materials.

It’s walk-away safe,” says Dewan, the company’s chief science officer. “If you lose electricity, even if there are no operators on site to pull levers, it will coast to a stop.

Transatomic envisions small, powerful, reactors that are built in factories and shipped by rail instead of being built on site like costly conventional ones.

Both government and private sector organizations are working towards nuclear innovations.

John Kotek, acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, recalled that last November the White House held a summit announcing the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN), “an organizing principal meant to transform the way we execute public-private partnerships.

GAIN is a new framework for how the Office of Nuclear Energy, in partnership with the Idaho, Argonne, and Oak Ridge National Labs, to leverage people, facilities, and capabilities to better support advancing nuclear technologies.

Kotek said, “We are already seeing huge payoffs from this new approach, including the issuance of a Site Use Permit for identifying potential locations for the first small modular reactor.

The nonprofit Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA), launched last November in Cambridge, Massachusetts, aims to improve the overall policy, funding and market environment essential for rapid commercialization of safer, lower cost and more secure nuclear technologies.

Motivated by the urgency of reducing carbon dioxide emissions responsible for climate change, the NIA brings together nuclear energy stakeholders, technical experts, nuclear technology companies, investors, environmental organizations and academic institutions.

The consensus emerging from nearly every scientific study on combating climate change is clear,” said Armond Cohen, NIA co-chairman. “In addition to energy efficiency, renewables and carbon sequestration, the world will need a lot more nuclear energy to sufficiently decarbonize our society’s energy consumption.”

“Emerging innovative reactor designs promise to be safer, more economical and faster to build, with less waste and lower proliferation risk,” Cohen said.

Christofer Mowry, NIA’s other co-chairman, said, “Real change to energy regulation and policy is needed to make these advanced designs commercially available in time to help limit climate change to an acceptable level.

Investors and developers need to see a clearer and lower risk path to their deployment,” said Mowry, “including an innovation-enabling licensing framework and more substantive public-private partnerships for rapid deployment.

At the same time, some of the largest environmental groups are easing their negative positions on nuclear power.

The “Wall Street Journal” reported in June that the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are concentrating more on preventing runaway climate change and less on the dangers of nuclear power than they have in the past.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups continue to urge the shutdown of existing nuclear plants, for fear that the environmental dangers outweigh the climate benefits.


 

Hydricity: Zero Emission 24/7 Solar-Water Power

SolarConcentrators

By Sunny Lewis

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, January 12, 2016 (ENS) – American and Swiss researchers are proposing a new integrated “hydricity” concept – the synergistic coproduction of solar thermal power and hydrogen. The cycle generates electricity from the sun and also produces and stores hydrogen from superheated water for round-the-clock power generation whether the sun is shining or not.

The scientists view this proposal as one route to a sustainable economy with abundant electricity generated 24/7 without emitting planet-warming greenhouse gases.

The hydricity proposal is currently at the stage of a simulated computer model, with the researchers moving in the direction of lab experiments.

Once real-world tests begin, hydricity would use specially-designed solar concentrators to focus sunlight.

This can “superheat” water, heating it far beyond its boiling point to produce high-temperature steam. The steam can run turbines to generate electricity and also can be used to operate solar reactors that split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen thus produced can then be stored to superheat water to run the steam turbines overnight when the solar cells aren’t active, generating more electricity.

Or it could be used for other applications, such as fuel for fuel cell cars.

However used, clean-burning hydrogen produces no planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, just water vapor.

When the proposed integrated process is operated in a standalone power production mode, the resulting solar water power cycle can generate electricity with unprecedented efficiencies of 40 to 46 percent.

When sunlight is unavailable, the researchers envision that the stored hydrogen would be used in a turbine-based hydrogen water power (H2WP) cycle with the calculated hydrogen-to-electricity efficiency of 65-70 percent, a figure comparable to fuel cell efficiencies.

Agarwal_Rakesh

“The proposed hydricity concept represents a potential breakthrough solution for continuous and efficient power generation,” explained Professor Rakesh Agrawal at Purdue University’s School of Chemical Engineering.

Agrawal is a co-author of the new research paper, “Hydricity: A Sunshine Route to Sustainability,” which was published in December in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” (PNAS)

“Traditionally electricity production and hydrogen production have been studied in isolation,” said Agrawal, “and what we have done is synergistically integrate these processes while also improving them.”

“The concept provides an exciting opportunity to envision and create a sustainable economy to meet all the human needs, including food, chemicals, transportation, heating and electricity,” he said.]

Hydricity, a fusion of hydrogen and electricity, is a word coined by the late, great Canadian geophysicist and businessman Geoffrey Ballard, founder of the fuel cell manufacturer Ballard Power Systems.

Recognized world-wide as the father of the fuel cell industry, Ballard was named a “Hero for the Planet” by “Time” magazine in 1999.

“It will take a combined effort of academia, government, and industry to bring about the change from a gasoline economy to a hydrogen economy,” Ballard told the World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC) one year. “The forces are building and progress is being made. It is of major importance that a change of this magnitude not be forced on unwilling participants, but that all of us work together for an economically viable path to change.”

To Ballard and to the study’s co-author Professor Mohit Tawarmalani at Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, the two processes complement one another to overcome the weakness of sunlight’s intermittancy.

“In the round-the-clock process we produce hydrogen and electricity during daylight, store hydrogen and oxygen, and then when solar energy is not available we use hydrogen to produce electricity using a turbine-based hydrogen-power cycle,” explained Tawarmalani.

“Because we could operate around the clock, the steam turbines run continuously and shutdowns and restarts are not required,” he said. “Our combined process is more efficient than the standalone process that produces electricity and the one that produces and stores hydrogen.”

The hydricity research paper was authored by Purdue chemical engineering doctoral student Emre Gençer; former chemical engineering graduate student Dharik Mallapragada; and Francois Marechal, a professor and chemical process engineer from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland; as well as professors Tawarmalani and Agrawal.

Gençer compared the efficiency of the hydricity process in generating and storing power to that of solar cells.

“The overall sun-to-electricity efficiency of the hydricity process, averaged over a 24-hour cycle, is shown to approach 35 percent, which is nearly the efficiency attained by using the best photovoltaic cells along with batteries,” said Gençer.

“Our proposed process stores energy thermo-chemically more efficiently than conventional energy-storage systems,” he said.

“The coproduced hydrogen has alternate uses in the transportation-chemical-petrochemical industries,” said Gençer, “and unlike batteries, the stored energy does not discharge over time and the storage medium does not degrade with repeated uses.”

Agrawal says that the hydrogen, once separated out of the water, can be combined with carbon from agricultural biomass to produce fuel, fertilizer and other products.

“If you can borrow carbon from sustainably available biomass you can produce anything: electricity, chemicals, heating, food and fuel,” Agrawal said.

Their research was published the week of December 14, 2015 in the online early edition of the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Read more in Emre Gençer et al., “Round-the-clock power supply and a sustainable economy via synergistic integration of solar thermal power and hydrogen processes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (14 December 2015) (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1513488112)

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through the DOE‘s Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels at Purdue’s Discovery Park and through a Solar Economy project led by Agrawal under the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Education and Research Traineeship Program.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Professor Rakesh Agrawal, right, at work with former Purdue chemical engineering graduate student Dharik Mallapragada (Photo courtesy Purdue University) www.purdue.edu
Head image: Solar concentrators at the Solar Energy Generating Systems facility in northern San Bernardino County, California.

Climate Polluters Collaborate on Nuclear Fusion

ITERComplete

by Sunny Lewis,

PARIS, France, December 17, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – The breakthrough Paris Climate Agreement approved December 12 commits all countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.

Now, the world is focused on finding clean sources of energy to replace the coal, oil and gas that, when burned to generate electricity, emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

All the countries that top the greenhouse gas emissions list are among those cooperating on a long-term energy project that some say is also a long shot – nuclear fusion.

The opposite of the nuclear fission that splits atoms to power all current nuclear generating stations, fusion is the process that powers the Sun and the stars.

When light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. Fusion research is aimed at developing a safe, abundant and environmentally responsible energy source.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, which in Latin means the way, is one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world today. Like the Paris Climate Agreement, ITER is also a first-of-a-kind global collaboration.

In Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in the south of France, 35 nations are collaborating to build the world’s largest Tokamak. This magnetic fusion device is designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy.

ITERconstruction

Thousands of engineers and scientists have contributed to the design of ITER since the idea for an international joint experiment in fusion was first launched in 1985.

The seven ITER Members – China, the European Union (plus Switzerland, as a member of EURATOM), India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States – are now engaged in a 35-year collaboration to build and operate the ITER experimental device, and together bring fusion to the point where a demonstration fusion reactor can be designed.

ITER is financed by the seven Members. Ninety percent of contributions will be delivered “in-kind.” That means that in the place of cash, the Members will deliver components and buildings directly to the ITER Organization.

The ITER Organization estimates the cost of ITER construction for the seven Members at roughly €13 billion, if all the manufacturing were done in Europe.

But each Member State is producing its contributions in its own country. “As production costs vary from Member to Member, it is impossible to furnish a more precise estimation,” says the ITER Organization.

Europe is contributing almost half of the costs of ITER construction, while the other six Members are contributing equally to fund the rest.

Organizers say the ITER project is “progressing well despite delays.”

On Monday, scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics said they have reached a milestone in the quest to derive energy from nuclear fusion.

They started up one of the world’s largest nuclear fusion machines for the first time and briefly generated a super-heated helium plasma inside a vessel, a key point in the experimental process.

The 16-meter-wide machine is the Wendelstein 7-X, a type of nuclear fusion device called a stellarator. Scientists have been talking about the enormous potential of stellarators for decades, but this is the first time a team has shown that it can produce and control plasma.

The first plasma in the machine lasted one-tenth of a second and reached a temperature of around one million kelvins. “We’re very satisfied,” said Hans-Stephan Bosch, whose division is responsible for the operation of the Wendelstein 7-X. “Everything went according to plan.”

At its 17th Meeting, held on November 18-19, the ITER Council reviewed the progress made by the ITER Organization Central Team and the Members’ Domestic Agencies from the ITER design and early construction phase to the current phase of full construction.

The Council recognized the “tangible progress” made during the past eight months on construction and component manufacturing.

Onsite, in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, the European Domestic Agency has completed the framing of the Assembly Hall and the platform for the first level of the Tokamak. There has also been progress on magnets, the neutral beam injector, remote handling, and other ITER components.

India has completed the fabrication, pre-assembly, and shipment of the initial components of the ITER cryostat, for assembly in the already completed cryostat building onsite, as well as the first cooling water piping for ITER’s chilled water and heat rejection systems.

Four 400kV transformers procured from the United States have been shipped and installed onsite, and the U.S.-procured drain tanks for the cooling water and neutral beam systems have arrived onsite.

China has completed the manufacturing and testing of the first batch of pulsed power electrical network equipment. China also has reached qualification milestones in the manufacturing of magnet feeders, correction coils, and the blanket first wall.

Japan has started the series production of the toroidal field coils. Full-tungsten prototypes of plasma-facing components for the ITER divertor have been manufactured and shipped, and required performance for ITER has been demonstrated.

Russia has fully met its obligations for delivery of superconductor cable for ITER magnets. At Russia’s Divertor Test facility, high heat flux testing is also underway for divertor plasma-facing components from Japan, Europe, and Russia. Beryllium fabrication has begun, and the gyrotron complex prototype facility has passed its acceptance tests.

In Korea, manufacturing is ongoing for the ITER vacuum vessel and thermal shield, and design milestones have been achieved for many of the purpose-built tools ITER will need for assembly.

The Council noted the completion of superconductor production, which has been a coordinated effort involving laboratories and companies of ITER Members in 12 countries.

This complex process involves the multinational harmonization of design attributes, production standards, quality assurance measures, and testing protocols.

The Council recognized “the substantial benefit this will create for all ITER Members, positively impacting the capacity for cross-border trade and innovation, not only in energy industries but also in fields such as medical imaging and transportation applications.”

If ITER is successfully completed, it will be able to claim many firsts. ITER will be the first fusion device to produce net energy. ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time.

And ITER will be the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.

MaxPlancktechniciann


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Visualization of the completed ITER Tokamak courtesy of Jamison Daniel, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, Oak Ridge National Lab, United States
Image 01: Construction is underway at the 42-hectare ITER site in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in southern France, where building began in 2010.
Image 02: A technician at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics works inside the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator.