Deep in the bowels of the Stata Center on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's campus is an energy war room.
A row of flat-screen monitors lines one wall, showing exhaustive data on energy use in dozens of buildings across the campus. Buildings are displayed in colors that depend on their overall energy use. If a building is red, that indicates an energy leak in one of its lighting, climate-control or ventilation systems, or a water leak. The system, using software from KGS Buildings LLC, can also predict where problems will crop up.
"It makes us more efficient, because we know what to look for," says Balby Etienne, an MIT buildings-systems analyst. He also credits the software for a big drop in temperature and humidity complaints.
At Tesla, Popple could rely on early adopters eager to pay a premium for an electric car. As the new chief executive officer of Proterra, which makes an $850,000 electric bus, he’s got a tougher audience: municipal governments that are used to paying as little as $300,000 for a diesel-guzzler. They’re reluctant to invest so much in the promise of energy savings down the line. Proterra argues that the wait isn’t long. “We’ve seen paybacks against diesel and hybrids in as little as two years and as long as six years,” says Popple. He’s persuaded some powerful backers. On June 18 he announced a $40 million round of investment led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (where he remains a partner), GM Ventures (GM), and the Pritzker family’s Tao Invest, bringing Proterra’s total outside funding to $100 million.
Wired on why we will continue to depend on coal and how we can clean it
“Conceptually speaking, CCS (Carbon Capture and Stirage) is simple: Industries burn just as much coal as before but remove all the pollutants. In addition to scrubbing out ash and soot, now standard practice at many big plants, they separate out the carbon dioxide and pump it underground, where it can be stored for thousands of years.
Many energy and climate researchers believe that CCS is vital to avoiding a climate catastrophe. Because it could allow the globe to keep burning its most abundant fuel source while drastically reducing carbon dioxide and soot, it may be more important—though much less publicized—than any renewable-energy technology for decades to come. No less than Steven Chu, the Nobel-winning physicist who was US secretary of energy until last year, has declared CCS essential. “I don’t see how we go forward without it,” he says.”
Lit Motors is a San Francisco startup developing a two-wheeled electric vehicle called the C-1. It looks like a motorcycle wrapped in a candy shell and rides like a car. The C-1 aims to fill the commuter sweet spot between bicycle and automobile. Lit founder Daniel Kim, 34, says the vehicle is scheduled to begin production later this year.
“Their first effort involved inserting genes into sugarcane to push it to produce 1.5 percent more oil.
“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but at 1.5 percent, a sugarcane field in Florida would produce about 50 percent more oil per acre than a soybean field,” Long said. “There’s enough oil to make it worth harvesting.”
They also say they’ve upped photosynthetic efficiency by 30 percent in sorghum and sugarcane. Previous research has shownthat unmodified sugarcane is already one of the most efficient at converting sunlight into energy, storing away up to one percent of the radiation that hits it in sugars over the course of a year. In research published in February in the journal Plant Physiology, Long and colleague Justin McGrath found that inserting genes from cyanobacteria into certain crop species could boost carbon dioxide uptake in the leaves and more efficient use of nitrogen and water. Further, they estimate this modification could increase crop yields by up to 60 percent.
Finally, by crossing sugarcane with a more cold-tolerant grass that can grow as far north as Canada, they think they’ll be able to extend the geographic range of oil-producing biofuel crop.
During a recent trip to Ireland I was impressed how pervasive Diesel fuel has become. Strategy+Business magazine reports “automaker confidence on alternative powertrains is shifting to diesel. U.S. automakers believe that diesel cars will outsell hybrid and electric cars, despite those powertrains’ higher mpg and the availability of federal subsidies”. Part of the reason is diesel TCO is attractive to consumers.
In the mean time, Motor Trend reports on additives to enhance performance of gasoline
“So how do Top Tier fuels like Chevron and Texaco with Techron, Shell's Nitrogen-Enriched, and BP's Invigorate work? Each employs top-secret organic chemistry (Chevron admits theirs involves a polyether amine. Others often employ polybutene amines, if that helps), but by and large the molecules include a "hydrocarbon tail" (that keeps the detergent soluble in fuel) attached to a head that includes a functional group containing nitrogen. When enough of these nitrogens attach to a deposit, it comes off. Then the nitrogens can attach to the clean surface and prevent new deposits from forming. The fresh challenge with DI is designing functional heads that don't lose their cool at temperatures of 4000 degrees F or higher.
Chevron and Shell both claim that running a few tanks of fuel can remove the deposits left by miles of use of minimum-standard fuels.”
“The tailor-made software - a variation of the Rhino CAD program popular with architects - allowed the studio to model the movement of the Sun during the day, controlling how light enters the interior. First, they could adjust the thickness of the aluminium cladding along its 1,500m stretch. "The honeycomb is thinner in the north, so that the sunlight can enter the interior, but not directly in the side," says Fuksas. Second, each of the 58,000 glass panels is shaped to allow or restrict light. The studio also created a range of laser-cut models out of paper and wood. Having two skins helps save energy by dispersing hot air throughout the building and via "ventilation trees" at ground level.”
Bloomberg on Green Plains and the rest of the US corn based ethanol industry.
“Rail cars, storage elevators and shipping terminals complement his trading desk and ethanol plants. Fifty miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Omaha, in Shenandoah, Iowa, Green Plains produces 65 million gallons of ethanol a year in towers that emit a sweet beerlike scent. The company wrings 175,000 tons of animal feed from leftover parts of the corn. It converts some feed to corn oil, adding a nickel to its typical 15 cents–a-gallon ethanol profit. It saves three cents a gallon by grinding corn thoroughly.
Becker promises to pressure presidential candidates to support ethanol when they pass through Iowa in 2016 -- even though he’s sure lawmakers will scrap minimum requirements. “It’s just a matter of when,” he says.”
Meanwhile in Brazil cane base ethanol is facing its own challenges even though the country has long pioneered the use of the biofuel. The Washington Post
“In the 1970s, Brazil wanted to wean itself off expensive, imported oil and turned to ethanol. Cars were built to run solely on the biofuel. Gas stations selling ethanol popped up nationwide. Generous subsidies went to sugar-cane producers and mills.
By 2003, Brazil introduced the flex-fuel car, which can run on ethanol or gasoline. Today, virtually all cars manufactured in Brazil are flex-fuel, and 64 percent of those on the roads can run on ethanol or gas.
This was the biggest project in the world to replace a fossil fuel with a renewable fuel,” said Adhemar Altieri of the Brazil Sugarcane Industry Association, which represents the country’s cane and ethanol producers.”
In fact, it required sheer doggedness and considerable skill in applying nuclear science to a global deal freighted with technical complexities and political uncertainties. Yet in the end, Dr. Neff noted, the mission was accomplished: Uranium once meant to obliterate American cities ended up endowing them with energy.
Nuclear experts hail it as a remarkable if poorly known chapter of atomic history. The two decades of bomb recycling, they say, not only reduced the threat of atomic terrorism and helped stabilize the former Soviet Union but achieved a major feat of nuclear disarmament — a popular goal that is seldom achieved.