Archive | Energy & Fuels

GE, NRG, COP to Invest in Clean Energy

General Electric, NRG Energy, and ConocoPhillips Thursday announced plans to form a joint venture that will invest $300 million in new energy development.

The energy technology entity, to be called Energy Technology Ventures, will power three initial projects. One investment will go to the Santa Clara, Calif.-based solar plant Alta Devices to improve production economics. Another project with Ciris Energy will focus on cleaner coal technologies, and the third collaboration with CoolPlanetBioFuels will promote biomass conversion technology, RTT News reports.

The new joint venture will invest in about 30 growth-stage clean energy companies over the next four years.

It marks the first joint venture for utility company NRG Energy and oil and gas company ConocoPhilips. GE has invested $200 million in 27 companies since 2007.

The corporate tie-up will focus on companies based in North America, Europe, and Israel.

GE was at $20.02 in midmorning trading on the NYSE Thursday, while NRG was at $21.19 and COP was at $69.42, according to RTT.

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Chrysler, EPA Work on Hybrid Minivan

Chrysler and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are working together to develop a hydraulic hybrid system for minivans.

The company and the agency announced Wednesday that they hope to design and build the gas-efficient model of Chrysler’s popular minivan by November and complete testing by July 2012.

The system could potentially bolster the minivan’s gas mileage by 35 percent to around 27 miles per gallon. That’s up from the 20 mpg the top Chrysler minivan currently gets in combined city and highway driving, AP reports.

The announcement comes as auto manufacturers struggle to meet new fuel economy standards effective in 2016. The regulations call for a fleet average of 35.5 mpg, nearly 10 mpg above the current standards. The government could call for an average mpg as high as 47 to 62 by 2025.

Chrysler, which is partly owned by the U.S. government after a 2009 bailout, is the only U.S. car maker without a hybrid model, and had the lowest corporate gas mileage average of any major automaker in 2009.

The hydraulic hybrid system, which was developed by scientists at the EPA’s laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., uses energy from braking in a hydraulic pressure vehicle. It is currently used in more than a dozen trash and package delivery trucks in Florida and Michigan, and about 50 more trucks have already been ordered.

Chrysler will finance the majority of the project and the EPA will contribute $2 million, Reuters reports.

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Gas Explosion Rocks Philly Neighborhood; 1 Dead

A gas explosion in Philadelphia Tuesday evening killed one person and injured five more, officials said.

The unexpected blast from a gas main left three people in critical condition and forced dozens of people to evacuate their homes in Philadelphia’s Tacony neighborhood.

Philadelphia Executive Fire Chief Daniel A. Williams said the one casualty was a Philadelphia Gas Works employee, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday.

PGW spokesman Cameron Kline said three additional workers were hospitalized in the University Hospital burn unit and remain in critical condition.

A fourth PGW employee was treated and released, spokeswoman Rebecca Harmon told The Associated Press.

Also among the injured was a firefighter who was reportedly in stable condition as of Wednesday morning.

The incident occurred at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday when a 12-inch gas main exploded, Kline said.

Emergency officials and utility employees were dispatched to the scene earlier after receiving reports of a gas smell. They had evacuated homes on the street and were working to locate the leak when the explosion occurred.

The blast broke a water main and leveled the building, UPI reports.

PGW says it is unclear what triggered the explosion.

Posted in Energy & Fuels, Natural Gas0 Comments

Progress Energy Goes to Duke Energy for $13 Billion

Duke Energy Corp. is acquiring Progress Energy Inc. for over $13 billion, making way for one of the country’s largest utilities.

The Associated Press reports that Duke on Monday announced its plans to buy $13 billion in Progress stock. The agreement would offer Progress shareholders 2.6125 shares of Duke common stock in exchange for each share of Progress common stock.

Duke said Progress shareholders would receive stock worth about $46.48 per share based on Friday’s closing numbers.

The buyout would create a utility company with 7.1 million electric customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

The electric company would have a sizable business in nuclear energy, AP reports.

The news drove Progress shares up 68 cents to $45.40 in pre-market trading Monday. Duke shares lifted 5 cents to $17.84.

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Wind Energy: The Promise of City Turbines

Opponents of wind power keep a store of questions on hand about the method’s relevancy as an alternative energy source. Won’t it disrupt migratory bird patterns? Is it really enough support our needs?

And then there’s that other question, the one that’s less practical but still a prevalent concern: Won’t it look bad?

Sometimes it seems like that’s wind power’s biggest adversary–its own unsightly aesthetic. Challengers protest that fleets of turbines in rural areas mar the beauty of the landscape. They are, to most folks anyway, an eyesore, a disruptor of idyllic scenery.

But maybe all that’s about to change. Cleanfield Energy, an Ontario-based renewable energy company, recently spoke of its plans to install wind turbines in urban areas all over the world.

While traditional wind farms in remote areas require the construction of towers and transmission lines to transport power back to the market, the company’s urban turbines can be placed on rooftops to directly power city buildings.

“The market potential for urban wind is quite massive,” CEO Tony Verrelli said in a press release.

Urban windmills, called Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs), have already been installed in the U.S., Canada, Slovenia, China and Ireland, and they are gaining popularity, the company says.

“We expect to be in a number of new markets in the months ahead,” Verrelli said.

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Energy Revolution Call Goes Out for India

Energy Power Plant in Beijing

Energy Power Plant in Beijing

Indian leaders are are pushing for an ‘Energy Revolution’ in order to protect their energy security and financial well being. President Pratibha Patil, speaking at the World Innovation Summit and Expo in Mumbai, said it is vital for the countries continued economic growth and security.

Patil believes India should consider all possible energy options, whether they be traditional, non-conventinal or experimental. Data suggests that currently India is unable to provide enough energy during peak consumption hours. Falling short by as much as 12 percent.

In addition to meeting current energy demands, there is also a push to supply energy to the estimated 400 million Indians who currently have no electricity at all, or have just enough to power their lights.

“It is time now for an energy revolution that will ensure our energy security,” she said, Press Trust of India reports.

Energy should be available to sustain the country’s growth and meet the aspirations of its people, Patil said, adding that the growth in demand for electricity has overtaken generation capacity.

“The capacity addition requires augmentation of manufacturing capacity of power equipment, skilled manpower and adoption of modern project management practices,” she said.

Kandeh Yumkella, director general of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization, told the Financial Times that even among those who do have electricity, many have just 100 kilowatts an hour per person per year, enough only for lights to function.

“They need at least 600 to 700 kilowatts an hour so that productivity can be enhanced, gross domestic product can increase and India can become more competitive,” he said.

Indian New and Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah said Wednesday that up to 10,000 remote villages across the country would be electrified with renewable energy sources by March 2012, The Hindu newspaper reports.

Most of the power is expected to come from the first 1,000 megawatts added to the national grid as part of the country’s national solar mission, announced last November, which aims to increase solar power to 20,000 megawatts by 2022.

India, Asia’s third-largest energy consumer and the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, relies on coal for more than half of its power capacity. India’s Prayas Energy Group says that nearly 1-10th of the country’s installed electricity capacity comes from renewable sources, mostly wind power.

Source: United Press International.

Posted in Energy & Fuels, Energy Policy & Advocacy0 Comments

How can we get past the Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) syndrome when it comes to wind farms?

Posted in Energy & Fuels, Wind0 Comments

German Renewable Industry Booming

BERLIN, March 24 (UPI) — Countering Germany’s overall economic trend, the renewable energy industry boomed in 2009, supplying more than 10 percent of the country’s energy for the first time.

“We have made delightful progress,” German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said upon unveiling of the renewable data Wednesday in Berlin. “Germany is a global market leader in the field of renewable energies.”

Renewables — including biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, wind and solar energy — accounted for 10.1 percent of the overall energy mix, up from 9.3 percent in 2008. Renewables produced 94 billion kilowatt hours of power in 2009, a share of 16.1 percent, up from 15.2 percent in the previous year.

That puts Germany in a comfortable position when it comes to reaching its targets of boosting renewables in the energy mix and at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Renewables in 2009 avoided 109 million tons of emissions; Germany has reduced its emissions levels by 28 percent compared to 1990 levels.

Roettgen said it was “very realistic” that Germany before 2020 reaches its target of a 30 percent renewable share in the power mix and by the same year reducing its emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels.

The German renewable energy sector has benefited from a generous feed-in-tariff provided by famous renewable energy law, or EEG.

Last year, the German renewable energy industry unlocked investments worth some $23 billion, in a year when the overall economy contracted by 5 percent. The sector employs 300,500 people, that’s almost double the 2004 figure.

“The sector is growing against the trend and it remains a job and economic motor,” Roettgen said.

It’s not all positive news, however: The solar energy industry has turned into a problem child.

The feed-in tariff requires large utilities to buy up power generated by solar panels at prices several times the market value. This has led to German companies leading the global solar power market but also in an excess capacity within relatively chilly Germany: The country in 2009 accounted for more than half of global panel installations, meaning that billions of dollars in subsidies go to their owners. Despite those massive subsidies, solar accounts for less than 1 percent of the overall energy mix in Germany.

This over-funding “discourages technological advances and lowers the acceptance of renewables with the public,” Roettgen said, adding that subsidy cuts were imminent. “We don’t want to use the EEG to subsidize solar investment funds that enjoy double-digit returns.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Geothermal, Hydroelectric, Solar0 Comments

2010 Energy Prize Competition Begins

HOUSTON, March 17 (UPI) — The ConocoPhillips Co. and Pennsylvania State University say they have opened the 2010 ConocoPhillips Energy Prize competition.

Officials said the competition awards up to $300,000 in recognition of original and viable solutions that can help improve the way the United States develops and uses energy.

The competition’s three areas are new energy source development, energy efficiency improvements and innovations that fight climate change.

Officials said the competition is open to U.S. residents 18 years of age or older at the time of entry. Entrants must submit a comprehensive proposal before May 22.

An expert panel of judges will select up to five finalists to present their submissions in October. Entries will be judged on the basis of creativity, scalability, commercial viability and sustainability.

“Securing the nation’s energy future will require innovative ideas that maximize existing resources, create sustainable and diverse energy supplies, and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Stephen Brand, ConocoPhillips senior vice president for technology.

ConocoPhillips and Penn State awarded the 2009 prize to a team that created a hydrokinetic machine that converts the movement of water from river and ocean currents into electric energy regardless of tidal current strength.

More information is available at

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Energy & Fuels, Energy Efficiency, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Tidal0 Comments

Energy Waste Creates Hydrogen Fuel

MADISON, Wis., March 16 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have created a simple and cost-effective technology that uses small amounts of waste energy to turn water into usable hydrogen fuel.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Assistant Professor Huifang Xu, who led the study, said his team grew nanocrystals of two common crystals — zinc oxide and barium titanate — and placed them into water. When pulsed with ultrasonic vibrations, the nanofibers flexed and catalyzed a chemical reaction to split the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

The researchers explained that when the fibers bend, asymmetries in their crystal structures generate positive and negative charges and create an electrical potential. That phenomenon, called the piezoelectric effect, is well known in certain crystals and is the driving force behind quartz clocks.

Xu and his colleagues applied the same idea to nanocrystal fibers and, so far, have achieved 18 percent efficiency — higher than most experimental energy sources.

Rather than harvest the energy directly, the scientists used it to break the chemical bonds in water and produce oxygen and hydrogen gas.

Xu said the process might eventually be used to generate power from a multitude of small sources — walking could charge a cell and breezes could power streetlights.

The study that included Kuang-Sheng Hong, Hiromi Konishi and Professor Xiaochun Li is reported in the March 2 issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Energy & Fuels, Energy Conservation, Hydrogen0 Comments

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