Renewables just finished another record-breaking year, with more money invested ($329 billion) and more capacity added (121 gigawatts) than ever before, according to new data released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
This wasn't supposed to happen. Oil, coal and natural gas bottomed out over the last 18 months, with bargain prices not seen in a decade. That's just one of a handful of reasons 2015 should have been a rough year for clean energy. But the opposite was true.
Using new superconductive materials, Whyte’s team (at MIT) has designed a fusion reactor they say should be able to profitably generate grid-scale power using smaller equipment at a much lower cost than current models under development.
1. Materials The team’s highly conductive magnetic coil, made from rare-earth barium copper oxide, requires less cooling than coils in other models. This helps reduce the reactor’s volume and weight by a factor of 10, Whyte says.
2. Results At the size of “a small building,” the reactor’s added conductivity would also double the strength of its magnetic field, upping fusion output by volume 16-fold, Whyte says.
StoreDot says its smartphone batteries can fully recharge in 60 seconds, compared with an hour and a half for the average device. Proprietary amino acids, used in place of some of a typical battery’s lithium components, allow for safer, quicker charging, StoreDot says.
Cheniere Energy, based in Houston, has spent more than a decade, and upwards of $20 billion, turning 1,000 acres of swamp into the first LNG export terminal in the continental U.S. When the terminal goes live later this year, it will change the dynamics of the energy market in North America. The U.S. will be on its way to becoming a net exporter of natural gas. About 700 million cubic feet of the stuff will begin arriving each day from all over the country—from Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and as far away as North Dakota—to this spot at the end of America’s natural gas pipeline network.
At the terminal, the gas will circulate through roughly a mile of steel pipes and refrigeration systems organized into metal racks spread out across the plant. The racks aren’t unlike the one on the back of a household refrigerator, except they’re 500 feet wide and a quarter of a mile long. In the heart of each rack are two “cold boxes,” the biggest of which is a 1,400-ton, seven-story steel rectangle.
Over about five minutes, the gas will cool until it becomes a super-dense liquid, weighing 3.5 pounds per gallon, after which it will get pumped into those giant storage tanks. From there it will be loaded onto foreign tankers and sold to customers worldwide, from power utilities in Spain and Britain to state-owned gas corporations in India and Korea.
The machine that orchestrates this plasma-on-plasma violence is something of a monster, 23 meters long and 11 meters wide, studded with dials and gauges and overgrown with steel piping and thick loose hanks of black spaghetti cable. Officially known as C-2U, it’s almost farcically complicated–it looks less like a fusion reactor than it does like a Hollywood fantasy of a fusion reactor. It sits inside a gigantic warehouse section of Tri Alpha’s Orange County office building surrounded by racks of computers that control it and more racks of computers that process the vast amounts of information that pour out of it–it has over 10,000 engineer control points that monitor the health of the machine, plus over 1,000 physics diagnostic channels pumping out experimental data. For every five millionths of a second it operates it generates about a gigabyte of data.
In August, Tri Alpha announced that its machine had generated some very interesting data. So far the company’s primary focus has been on the long-enough problem, rather than the hot-enough part; stabilizing the plasma is generally considered the tougher piece in this two-piece puzzle. Now Binderbauer believes that they’ve done it: in June the reactor proved able to hold its plasma stable for 5 milliseconds.
In Texas, wind farms are generating so much energy that some utilities are giving power away (on left is a TXU sign)
Briana Lamb, an elementary school teacher, waits until her watch strikes 9 p.m. to run her washing machine and dishwasher. It costs her nothing until 6 a.m. Kayleen Willard, a cosmetologist, unplugs appliances when she goes to work in the morning. By 9 p.m., she has them plugged back in.
And Sherri Burks, business manager of a local law firm, keeps a yellow sticker on her townhouse’s thermostat, a note to guests that says: “After 9 p.m. I don’t care what you do. You can party after 9.”
Tampa Electric Co. is currently installing 7,000 solar panels atop a parking garage at Tampa International Airport, which will create enough energy to power 250 homes on an average day, or operate the 1.4-mile automated “people mover” train coming with the airport’s $1 billion master plan expansion.
Shortly after that project began, TECO announced plans for a much larger solar array on land near its Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach. That project will produce 25 megawatts of electricity, compared to the 2 megawatts the airport project will produce, making it the largest solar array in Hillsborough County. That is enough to electricity to power 3,500 homes.
University of Michigan engineers think they may have a next-generation solution to keeping photovoltaics out of the shade. Their idea comes thanks to the ancient Japanese paper-cutting craft of kirigami.
By building photovoltaics onto a flexible surface with strategically placed cuts, their prototype solar cells can transition from flat to three-dimensional surfaces with just a bit of pulling and pushing. They were able to control the array’s tilt to within one degree.
CalWave, an underwater mechanism of springy fiberglass “carpets,” generates electricity from ocean waves more efficiently and less obtrusively than wave-energy systems at the surface now in use in Hawaii and other places.
CalWave plans to switch on an 8-foot-by-30-foot prototype plant off the San Diego coast late this year. Lehmann says it will cost about $80,000 to build and generate 80 kilowatts of power, enough to run 180 homes. For commercial operations, multiple units will link together to form wider carpets. Lehmann and Haji are talking with IDE Technologies, which is building a $1 billion desalination plant in Carlsbad, Calif., about using CalWave as a power source.
In a windowless conference room in Anchorage, a dozen Royal Dutch Shell employees report on the highest-profile oil project in the multinational’s vast global portfolio. Warmed by mid-July temperatures, Arctic ice in the Chukchi Sea, northwest of the Alaskan mainland, is receding. Storms are easing; helicopter flights will soon resume. Underwater volcanoes—yes, volcanoes—are dormant. “That’s good news for us,” Ann Pickard, Shell’s top executive for the Arctic, whispers to a visitor.
Overhead, a bank of video monitors displays blinking green radar images of an armada of Shell vessels converging on a prospect called Burger J. Company geologists believe that beneath Burger J—70 miles offshore and 800 miles from the Anchorage command center—lie up to 15 billion barrels of oil. An additional 11 billion barrels are thought to be buried due east under the Beaufort Sea. All told, Arctic waters cover about 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered petroleum, or enough to supply the U.S. for more than a decade, according to government estimates.
“The P90D is Tesla’s most advanced electric car to date. The P is for “performance,” and D refers to the dual-motor setup that enables all-wheel drive. The 90 is a nod to the 90 kilowatt-hour battery pack, which Tesla says boosts range by about 6 percent. That’s good for nearly 270 miles, though you get closer to 300 in the slightly less potent 90D. Pretty much every other EV on the market delivers 100 miles, max.”