Largest Wind R&D Study Underway at NREL

Strong winds are a common research partner for scientists working at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). Recently, those gusting Colorado winds helped usher in a new milestone for wind technology research and development. NREL and Siemens Power Generation “flipped the switch” starting the blades on a Siemens 2.3 megawatt wind turbine installed as part of a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) for testing turbine aerodynamics, structure and reliability.

“The state-of-the-art wind turbine you see before us Read more »

Retailers Paying Customers to Bring Their Own Bags

Retailers are finding that the best way to get consumers to ditch plastic bags and go green is to give them money back.

Target and CVS are the latest retailers who are giving discount incentives to customers who bring in their own reusable bags instead of using the store’s plastic bags. The move establishes them as green companies in the mind of consumers and reduces pollution caused by plastic bags.

Although smaller retailers have offered incentives in the past, CVS/pharmacy (with about 7,000 stores) and Target (about 1,700 stores) are the largest to do so.

“The general public wouldn’t think of them as green companies,” said Dr. Scott Testa, a business professor at Cabrini College in Philadelphia. “If CVS can differentiate itself and be looked at as the ‘green’ drug store then conceivably they’ll gain more customers.”

In order to participate, Read more »

Solar panels with 80% efficiency that work at night

The most expensive solar panels, carefully designed and complex only reach 40% efficiency. That means that for every ray of sun that hits the panel, only 40% is converted into electricity.

Scientists believe that this is the most that the silicon solar panels can reach, so they are now seeking cheaper ways to do them rather than producing more efficient solar panels. But suddenly out of nowhere appears Steven Novack of the Idaho National Laboratory with a cheap and foldable solar panel that achieves efficiencies up to 80%.

The answer to this is in nanotechnology. The surface of the material is printed with nano antennae that capture infra-red light; those kinds of rays are present even in the evenings. TV antennas capture energy in very long waves. That is why to catch small waves they created very small antennas.

The material is very simple to create, and scientists are confident that the technology can be carried outside the lab. At the moment there is a big problem, it is not yet possible to transmit the energy that is created with this method.

This means the electrons that are generated when the nano antennas are exposed to the sun, are not yet able to catch them. But they are working on how to catch them. They think that putting a minicapacitor through each antenna may export the power generated in the solar panel to be useful, and thus have a high efficiency and a very low price for the new generation of panels.

The advantage of finding your personal renewable energy

The first law of thermo-dynamics says that the total amount of energy on our planet remains constant. The second law states that as forms of energy are expended they become less easily available.

That is entropy: the slow winding down of available energy.
Renewable energy: a sweet harvest. When you burn coal, gas or oil you rapidly convert a relatively easily available, concentrated source of energy into a much less available form: dispersed exhaust gases.

A highly concentrated energy source, built up over millions of years quickly gone up in smoke!

So, burning fossil fuels is a high-entropy way of using energy.

Using renewable energy however merely taps into a natural flow of energy, sunlight, moving water, wind, biological- or geothermal processes. These are part of natural cycles of highs and lows.

Their energy is truly renewable as it remains available to the same degree and is not depleted any more than it otherwise would by using it—an advantage of renewable energy that we have discussed.

This is a low-entropy way of using energy.

An advantage of renewable energy therefore is that it requires us to rise to the occasion, and to bring out our best inner resources.

Magma Energy heats up geothermal with $87M IPO

Canadian geothermal power company Magma Energy has raised C$100 million ($87 million) from investors in an initial public offering.

The company has one operating power plant in Nevada, four advanced-stage exploration properties and 14 early-stage exploration properties in the western United States and South America. Magma sold 66.667 million shares at C$1.50 each, in a reportedly oversubscribed deal.

A study from the U.S. Geological Survey suggests geothermal’s untapped potential could generate 529.9 gigawatts of electricity in the United States. About 9 GW could come from conventional, identified geothermal systems, the study said. More than 30 GW could come from conventional undiscovered geothermal resources, and the remainder could come from unconventional geothermal systems with high temperatures but low permeability of rock formations.

There have been few national resource estimates in more than 30 years on the potential for geothermal in the U.S. Among them is a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Even in the most promising areas, drilling must reach depths of 5,000 feet or more in the west, and much deeper in the eastern United States, according to the report.