Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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World-Record Battery Performance Achieved With Egg-Like Nanostructures

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 01:47 PM PST

SLAC and Stanford scientists have set a world record for energy storage, using a clever "yolk-shell" design to store five times more energy in the sulfur cathode of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery than is possible with today's commercial technology. The cathode also maintained a high level of performance after 1,000 charge/discharge cycles, paving the way for new generations of lighter, longer-lasting batteries for use in portable electronics and electric vehicles.

Microscope Image of Yolk-Shell Battery Nanostructures

The research was led by Yi Cui, a Stanford associate professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, a SLAC/Stanford joint institute. The team reported its results Jan. 8 in Nature Communications.

The Sulfur Cathode Problem

Lithium-ion batteries work by moving lithium ions back and forth between two electrodes, the cathode and anode. Charging the battery forces the ions and electrons into the anode, creating an electrical potential that can power a wide range of devices. Discharging the battery – using it to do work – moves the ions and electrons to the cathode. Today's lithium-ion batteries typically retain about 80 percent of their initial capacity after 500 charge/discharge cycles.

For some 20 years, researchers have known that sulfur could theoretically store more lithium ions, and thus much more energy, than today's cathode materials. But two critical disadvantages prevented its commercial use: When lithium ions enter a sulfur cathode during discharging, they bond with sulfur atoms to create an intermediate compound that's important for the cathode's performance; but this compound kept dissolving, limiting the cathode's energy-storage capacity. At the same time, the influx of ions caused the cathode to expand by about 80 percent. When scientists applied protective coatings to keep the intermediate compound from dissolving, the cathode would expand and crack the coating, rendering it useless.

An Egg-cellent Solution

Cui's innovation is a cathode made of nanoparticles, each a tiny sulfur nugget surrounded by a hard shell of porous titanium-oxide, like an egg yolk in an eggshell. Between the yolk and shell, where the egg white would be, is an empty space into which the sulfur can expand. During discharging, lithium ions pass through the shell and bind to the sulfur, which expands to fill the void but not so much as to break the shell. The shell, meanwhile, protects the sulfur-lithium intermediate compound from electrolyte solvent that would dissolve it.

Each cathode particle is only 800 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in diameter, about one-hundredth the diameter of a human hair.

Diagram showing how Lithium/Titanium-Oxide yolk-shells work

The yolk-shell nanoparticles are made by coating sulfur with a nanoporous layer of hard titanium dioxide, and then using a solvent to dissolve away some of the sulfur while leaving the shell in place. Each cathode particle is only 800 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in diameter, about one-hundredth the diameter of a human hair.

"It basically worked the first time we tried it," Cui said. "The sulfur cathode stored up to five times more energy per sulfur weight than today's commercial materials.

"After 1,000 charge/discharge cycles, our yolk-shell sulfur cathode had retained about 70 percent of its energy-storage capacity. This is the highest performing sulfur cathode in the world, as far as we know," he said. "Even without optimizing the design, this cathode cycle life is already on par with commercial performance. This is a very important achievement for the future of rechargeable batteries."

3-part diagram explaining yolk-shell cathode design

Previous attempts to make sulfur cathodes using bare sulfur or simply coated particles could not prevent the dramatic reduction of energy-storage capacity as the lithium-sulfur intermediate compounds (polysulfides) created during charging broke free and dissolved away.

Funding for the project came from the DOE Office of Basic Energy Sciences through SLAC's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program, which directs a percentage of the lab's funding to high-risk, high-payoff research that, if successful, can lead to future program opportunities.

Over the past seven years, Cui's group has demonstrated a succession of increasingly capable anodes that use silicon rather than carbon because it can store up to 10 times more charge per weight. Their most recent anode also has a yolk-shell design that retains its energy-storage capacity over 1,000 charge/discharge cycles.

The group's next step is to combine the yolk-shell sulfur cathode with a yolk-shell silicon anode to see if together they produce a high-energy, long-lasting battery.

Source: Mike Ross, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Images & Diagrams: Zhi Wei She et al., Stanford University

World-Record Battery Performance Achieved With Egg-Like Nanostructures was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

1 Year Of Chevy Volt Ownership: Reflections

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 01:40 PM PST

From one of our friends, Volt Owner, here’s an intitial one-year review of the Chevy Volt along with some interesting reflections regarding other matters (reposted from his blog – My Chevy Volt – with the image added):

On Monday, January 7, 2013, I will have owned a 2012 Chevrolet Volt for one year [editor's note: this was originally published on Friday, January 4].  It's been one hell of a year. What started out as a simple car purchase turned out to be a life altering event. Why? It's a long list.

Image Credit: Chevrolet

The car vastly exceeded my expectations, which were born from a technological car crush way back when the Volt was announced as a concept in 2007. I followed the Volt's development closely, mainly on, for several years. My goal was to own a Volt as soon as it was sold in my state. And based upon my expected use cases, I figured I would average around 100 MPG combined with my 70+ miles per day commute, not the 1000+ MPG I would get after a full year of ownership and 20,000 miles. Owning a Volt for one year has removed any doubts about the viability of the electric car movement. While nay sayers will complain about the cost of EVs, at the same time, people like me can show these cars are already a cost effective solution for many — I have no doubts that the electric car industry will follow the same trend that every other piece of technology has gone through during our lifetime:  initially high adoption premiums, whose costs are rapidly diminished through economies of scale, and delivered not only cheaper, but better. You would have to completely ignore history to believe otherwise.

I didn't realize the influence I could have as an early adopter, helping usher in the electric car age. I participated in several state-wide Plug-in Vehicle Readiness Groups funded through the Department of Energy. That work is helping our entire state get educated on electric vehicles, and promoting sustainable, thoughtful and appropriate policies for their adoption. Not only that, but working with large and powerful stakeholders such as car manufactures, power companies, and legislators helped fill in any knowledge gaps I had about electric cars. In this past year, I learned what it is like to be a true advocate, sacrificing a lot of personal time to help promote electrification. This blog is only a tiny portion of that work. I even battled a conservative radio talk show host, I believe successfully, for about 15 minutes on air.

As a result of owning this car, I pay a lot more attention to where I get my news, and how much I trust what I hear/read/see. If you know the sky is blue, and the news sources that you trust so much tell you the sky is orange, you have a problem.  News sources I once trusted, probably to my own ignorance, such as Fox and Drudge Report, have not only distorted facts about electric cars, specifically the Volt, but they have told lies  In fact, Matt Drudge in my opinion has directly libeled GM and the Volt, and should have been taken to court and sued for millions, as I believe he has negatively affected Volt sales in that amount. If you have read this blog [editor's note: My Chevy Volt, not CleanTechnica], you know I've written a few entries attempting to expose a lot of the lies told by the media about this car. But my distrust of the news now goes way beyond just the electric car, as I am now forced to scrutinize almost everything else I see reported. Thankfully, my critical thinking ability has been reinvigorated. I can't say the same the same for most Americans.

I have even reevaluated my once strong love of the Republican Party. I still consider myself a Republican. But much of the Republican Party has left me in its extremism, loss of a balanced approach to solving our nation's complex problems, and a lack of intellectual integrity and honestly. The fact that the Republican Party cannot see the enormous and repeated damage caused by our dependence on crude, foreign or domestic, and sees the only viable solution in expanded drilling is beyond comprehension. Given that this was an election year, it wasn't difficult to get the candidates' views on electrification of the transportation sector. Needless to say, electric vehicles are not widely supported by Republican leadership. So I have a difficult time supporting candidates that don't have a balanced, intelligent, and honest answer to our nations' energy crisis, and as a result, can't trust them to make good decisions on other issues.

So, all of this change and self-reflection from a simple car purchase…. Long live electric cars and long live the Volt!

For those that want all the nity gritty details, I’ll be publishing a new post very soon with my details.

1 Year Of Chevy Volt Ownership: Reflections was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

US Military Microgrids Aim For 54.8MW Capacity By 2018

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 01:31 PM PST

America's Defense Department is the largest single global consumer of petroleum, and its military operations comprise the largest demand source for all forms of energy. In addition, bases located within the United States and abroad depend on aging transmission systems susceptible to cyber-terrorism and extreme weather.

US Air Force base

US Air Force base image via Shutterstock

So, what would happen if the US military shifted efforts away from transporting energy over long and insecure distances to establishing a network of independent microgrids that integrate distributed renewable generation, electric vehicles, and demand response at its bases?

The answer, according to a new Pike Research report, is 54.8 megawatts total capacity across all global installations by 2018 – in an average growth scenario – and perhaps the largest market force driving the world's overall microgrid market.

Fewer Security Risks, Lower Fuel Costs

Shifting major stationary bases, in-theater forward operating bases, and mobile tactical operations toward distributed generation and self-reliance make sense both for sheer financial costs and overall security.

US military operations in Afghanistan have paid the equivalent of $400 per gallon of fuel, when all costs (security, transportation, and mortalities) are added to the equation, and electricity generation is the single largest battlefield consumer of fuel.

Enter microgrids. They're an ideal option for the military – they integrate renewables like small-scale wind and solar, reduce fuel consumption by networking generators as a system to boost efficiency, and allow individual bases to remain operational even if supply lines or transmission lines are cut.

"Analysis has led the DOD to the inevitable conclusion that the best way to bolster its ability to secure power may well be through microgrid technology it can own and control… furthermore, recent mandates require an increase in reliance upon renewable energy developed onsite" (Pike Research executive summary)

A Future Full Of Integrated Renewables

Many bases have existing "vintage" microgrids based on fossil fuels, but a new strategic focus on incorporating renewable distributed energy generation (RDEG) is taking shape across all branches of the armed forces. Theoretically, these RDEG microgrids create the ultimate energy security through endless wind and solar electricity.

Pike's analysis has identified over 40 U.S. military facilities with RDEG microgrids in operation, planned, under study, or in demonstration. In addition, up to 600 forward operating bases and countless tactical units could integrate microgrid systems. While the Marines show the fastest initial capacity growth, the Army has the greatest long-term potential due to its larger number of stationary bases.

The US military's microgrid future demonstrates once more the simple fact that renewables and distributed generation aren't just some hippie fallacy. They're real-world solutions to our biggest energy challenges being pursued by the one entity tasked with creating the strongest possible America. Sounds like validation to me.

US Military Microgrids Aim For 54.8MW Capacity By 2018 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

EDF Renewable Energy Commissions 150MW Wind Energy Project In Texas

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 12:59 PM PST

According to a recent announcement made by EDF Renewable Energy, formerly known as enXco, 150 MW Bobcat Bluff wind farm in Texas became operational on 26 December 2012.

wind turbines set new electricity generation record in texas

Wind turbines by Danish Wind Industry Association (some rights reserved)

EDF Renewable Energy had acquired the project from Element Power in March 2012, and construction of the project was started in April. The Bobcat Bluff wind farm is comprised of 100 GE turbines, 1.5 megawatt each. The wind farm is located on approximately 12,500 acres 20 miles south of Wichita Falls. The project is expected to generate enough clean electricity for the needs of approximately 40,000 average homes.

"Bobcat Bluff represents EDF Renewable Energy's first project in the ERCOT market and our second in the state of Texas where we commissioned 311 MW of new wind capacity in 2012," said executive VP Ryan Pfaff.

"We are pleased to bring the project to fruition, aided in no small part by the state's promotion of a business-friendly environment, as well as local stakeholders who understand the critical importance of wind energy to our nation's energy portfolio."

The operation and maintenance of the wind farm will be undertaken by EDF Renewable Services. The energy management will be done by EDF Trading, according to the developer.

With the commissioning of the Bobcat wind farm, EDF Renewable Energy has successfully completed five wind projects with an aggregate capacity of 654.3 megawatts during 2012, bringing total installed capacity of all its renewable projects in the US to 1,785 megawatts.

Wind Energy in Texas

Texas is one of the leading wind energy producers in the US, with about 10,000 MW installed capacity. The recent few months have been exceptionally great for the Texan wind energy sector. Numerous records were set over the last few months in terms of share of wind-based electricity in the total share of electricity.

On December 25, 2012, wind energy projects in the state generated 25.7% of the total electricity supplied to the grid, the highest-ever share of wind energy in Texan grid. On that day, wind energy projects injected 8,638 MW electricity of the total 39,847 MW electricity in the system. Last year, we noted that the cost of wholesale electricity in Texas fell to zero due to higher wind energy generation compared to the demand. Surely, this has happened a few times since then.

Wind power generated in Texas is expected to double in 2013 and contribute about 16% of the total electricity produced in the state.

The future of wind power development in the state seems bright, as Congress extended a federal tax credit recently. The tax credit extension is expected to save approximately 37,000 jobs, according to estimates of an independent study conducted for the American Wind Energy Association.

While the prospects of wind energy in Texas remain bright, interestingly, some scientists have noted that land surface temperatures underneath and around large wind farms in west-central Texas have increased as a result of the introduction of the wind farms, especially at nighttime.

The views presented in the above article are author's personal views only

EDF Renewable Energy Commissions 150MW Wind Energy Project In Texas was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Tulsi Tanti: Wind Energy To Play A Major Role In Shaping India’s Future

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 12:47 PM PST

Tulsi Tanti, the chairman and managing director of Suzlon energy (one of the biggest wind energy companies in the world), believes that wind energy will play a major role in shaping India’s future.

Tulsi Tanti by World Economic Forum (some rights reserved)

Many people believe that wind energy could play a major role. However, Tanti believes that it definitely will, due to the rapid growth of the wind industry despite the global economic struggle. And Tanti might just be someone to listen to on this topic.

The growth of the wind industry, of course, causes a lot of job creation, because more wind turbine factories are then built and more wind farms are built and operated — all worker-intensive activities.

In 2011, India’s installed wind energy capacity increased by a whopping 138% over a two year period when it surpassed over 3 GW (3,000 MW) of wind turbine installations, which, as Tulsi Tanti rightly notes, “a remarkable achievement in times of global economic depression.”

The growth of the Indian wind industry has slowed, indicated by a 40% decrease in the number of wind installations in the first half of 2012. However, all is not lost. In young and growing industries, there will be peaks and valleys. Wind will have many big years in the coming decades.

Source: The Economic Times

Tulsi Tanti: Wind Energy To Play A Major Role In Shaping India’s Future was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Upcoming Honda Accord Hybrid (Not PHEV) Achieves Outstanding MPG (68 MPG)

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 12:37 PM PST

There is an upcoming Honda Accord hybrid (in Japan) which achieves an outstanding 68 MPG (or 3.4 l/100km) through the use of a two-motor hybrid drive system. This is not the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) that we’ve written about previously, but that PHEV will also take advantage of this new two-motor propulsion system.

Honda Accord Hybrid Sedan via Honda

This surpasses the 23.4 km per liter and 23.2 km per litre of the Toyota Camry and Crown hybrids, respectively. It even exceeds the Honda Insight hybrid’s 27.2 km/litre.

This will be the most fuel-efficient Honda offered when it is released. It will only be available for leasing by businesses and municipalities in Japan.

According to Green Car Congress, the Accord hybrid is likely to sell for a little more than three million yen (about $34,400), and Honda hopes to move 10,000 per year.

Upcoming Honda Accord Hybrid (Not PHEV) Achieves Outstanding MPG (68 MPG) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Iberdrola Sells French Wind Farms for €350 Million

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 09:14 AM PST

Spanish Energy company Iberdrola recently sold 32 onshore wind farms in France for €350 million.

In a consolidation move by Iberdrola, the deal will see General Electric, Munich Re, and EDF adding to their respective renewable energy portfolios, according to Business Green.

The deal could even increase by an extra €50 million, if production targets move smoothly over the next five years.

The new group of investors plans to switch a portion of the 160 wind machines to GE turbines, for better effectiveness and efficiency.

MEAG (which is Munich Re's asset manager along with ERGO) and GE Financial Services will own a 40% share each, while EDF will own the other 20%.

“This transaction is a great opportunity for EDF Energies Nouvelles to expand its wind assets portfolio in France and scale up its O&M business,” said executive vice president of EDF Energies Nouvelle Emmanuel Jaclot.

“GE’s and MEAG’s diligence and knowledge of this industry allowed us to sign this acquisition in the targeted timeframe,” he said.

This year alone, Iberdrola has sold off close to €850 million of its "non-core assets," including seven German wind farms, according to the company’s press release.

Meanwhile, the new deal will add to General Electric's $8 billion in renewable energy assets, and Munich Re plans to invest up to €2.5 billion in renewables. And EDF Energies Nouvelle installed a total wind capacity of 320 MW in France.

GE, Munich Re, EDF Energies Nouvelle Make A Statement

With the recent sell-offs for Iberdrola of it's renewable energy portfolio mean it is getting out of the game for a while? Or will it return in the future? Only time will tell.

However, it's nice to see companies like GE, and especially Munich Re, who has been on the forefront on climate change issues, as well as EDF Energies Nouvelle invest in new deals. Hopefully, they can keep the momentum going.

Main sources: Business Green / Iberdrola

Iberdrola Sells French Wind Farms for €350 Million was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Germany Installed Record Amount Of Solar Power In 2012, 7.6 GW Of New Capacity

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 08:59 AM PST

Germany installed a record amount of new solar power in 2012, 7.6 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity, according to new data released by the Environment Ministry. New installations fell somewhat towards the end of the year, because subsidies (the country’s feed-in tariffs for solar) were slashed.


Image Credits: Solarfeld Erlasee via Wikimedia Commons

Total solar energy generation capacity there grew by over 7.6 GW, besting the previous records of 7.5 GW in 2011 and 7.4 GW in 2010. These large increases in capacity were triggered by the country’s feed-in tariffs, “which are guaranteed to generators for 20 years to encourage carbon free power to gradually replace fossil fuels,” as Reuters writes.

Recently, some businesses in the country have complained that the phase-out of nuclear power, and replacement with subsidized renewables, is ‘jeopardizing’ economic growth.

So the conservative government has decided to address these concerns by cutting the level of feed-in tariffs, in order to slow down the rate of new installations, until solar is cheaper than other currently used forms of energy. Tariffs were then lowered by 2.5% a month between November 1, 2012 and January 31, 2013.

These cuts resulted in total new installed capacity in the final quarter of 2012 to be less than a fifth of the total for the year. “611 megawatts (MW) had been installed in October, 435 MW in November and 360 MW in December.” showing pretty clearly that the cuts are working. The Environment Ministry is predicting total new installed solar energy generating capacity for 2013 to be between 3.5 GW and 4 GW.

The association of solar producers reports, that in 2012, “its members supplied 8 million households with power, 45 percent more than in 2011, and accounting for 5 percent of total power usage.”

Germany Installed Record Amount Of Solar Power In 2012, 7.6 GW Of New Capacity was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Electric Carsharing Program To Open In Tel Aviv

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 06:20 AM PST

The Israeli city of Tel Aviv is now planning the creation of an extensive electric carsharing program. For obvious reasons, the country could significantly cut back its reliance on imported fossil fuels. The new electric car sharing program is good step in that direction. The unstated eventual goal, is of course, an oil-free Israel.


It’s predicted that the French-company Renault will feature heavily in the new program. It is already a “major partner in one of Israel's premiere electric car projects, the battery-swapping Better Place,” sister site Gas2 notes. ”If Better Place and Renault could convince the politicians that battery swapping and car-sharing is a perfect marriage, it'd be a big win for the hard-hit EV innovator.”

Ido Shamir, director of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Economic Development Authority, said carsharing plans are attractive mainly to people who travel infrequently, "such as families that already have one car," adding, that such a system "reduces the number of vehicles and air pollution and frees up parking spaces."

How quickly and readily such a program will be accepted by the Israeli public remains to be seen. A switch to electric automobiles and renewable energy sources is likely an inevitability for the country though. Its reliance on imported oil makes it very susceptible if a large regional war were to break out.

Carsharing is actually a fast-growing trend around the world due to the numerous benefits listed above. And there are now several companies and organizations that focus exclusively on electric vehicle carsharing.

Electric Carsharing Program To Open In Tel Aviv was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

90% Renewable Electricity By 2015 Is Uruguay’s Goal

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 06:08 AM PST

In September of 2011, Uruguay announced it could increase its wind power capacity by 800 MW. Not long afterwards, that figure was increased to 1,000 MW. In the beginning of January 2013, a new goal was publicized: 90% of all its electricity from renewables by 2015.


Uruguay wind turbines Image Credit: Daniel Stonek, Wiki Commons

Though this figure might seem like a pipe dream to some, consider the fact Nicaragua has stated a similar goal, and both countries actually do have a chance to deliver the goods. Uruguay has slightly more than half of Nicaragua’s six million people, but it has 1,500 MW of hydroelectric power already.

About 45% of its electricity comes from hydro and 15% from biomass, so the remaining 30% is expected to be generated by wind. One thing in the country’s favor is the increasing renewable energy investment trend in South America. This trend is creating demand for turbine manufacturers like Vestas, which is supplying Chile with 90 MW of turbines soon for a new wind farm there.

Extra wind power is required in Uruguay to complement its hydro, which is robust but intermittent. Developing domestic renewable energy is an intelligent choice — especially for countries that rely heavily upon foreign oil. Although the initial outlay of capital may seem shockingly large, the overall amount of money they give away to other nations for oil has a detrimental impact on their economies.

These domestic energy projects also employ local people and teach them new technology skills. In August, it was reported that 21 wind farms were under development in 11 parts of Uruguay, so this energy independence movement is definitely under way. Green energy is also a good choice for Uruguay because it helps preserve local natural habitats, and eco-tourism is an important part of its economy.

As electric vehicles become more common, the country will have implemented the infrastructure changes it needs in order to accommodate them, and hopefully reduce reliance on gas-powered cars, so there will likely be less air pollution, which can cause health problems and even premature death.

90% Renewable Electricity By 2015 Is Uruguay’s Goal was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

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